Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Discussions Held on Military Health Care Fee Increases

ROA was invited to a special briefing Monday for beneficiary associations on proposed changes to health care which coincided with the release of the President’s budget request for Fiscal Year 2012. The meeting followed comments previously made by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates about the high cost of military health care, with a promise of “modest” health care fee increases. The meeting was hosted by Under Secretary for Personnel and Readiness Clifford L. Stanley.

ROA Current Issues: TRICARE

The briefing proved what is being requested is indeed modest. TRICARE Prime fees proposed by the Pentagon would increase a family’s enrollment cost in FY-2012 from $460 to $520.  An individual on TRICARE Prime would change from $230 to $260. No fee changes would occur for TRICARE Standard or TRICARE for Life.

A further proposal would incentivize pharmacy co-payments with an increase in retail prescriptions by two to three dollars for each formulary tier. To encourage people to utilize mail order pharmacies for maintenance drugs, the generic co-payment would drop to zero dollars, and formulary brand names would remain at $9. The co-payment for non-formulary drugs bought through mail order would be $22. While retail only provides a 30 day supply, mail order provides a 90 day supply.

But reenrollment in TRICARE Prime would be more expensive in FY-2013 and continue to go up each year. The plan would index the enrollment fees to an external medical index. In its proposal DoD suggests that the project increase would be 6.2 percent per year using Medicare accrual projections. Associations were briefed that eight index options were being considered, among which were CPIM – the consumer index for medical costs, the Federal Employee Health Benefit Plan cost average, or Medicare Part “B” increase basis. ROA pointed out there are two TRICARE plans, TRICARE Reserve Select (TRS) and TRICARE Retired Reserve (TRR), that are already indexed, and that all TRICARE plans should be on the same type of indexing.  DoD said they were open to input from the beneficiary associations on suggesting an index, but indicated that the COLA index would be insufficient.

The challenge facing ROA and other associations is finding a fair index that does necessarily align with national health care increases. Increased premiums for both TRS and TRR are based on cost increases for that population over the previous year.  Nationally, medical costs increases have been higher than cost of living and inflation rates by two to three times, often in the double digits. ROA has also pointed out that health costs need to be based on the military community risk pool as a whole, and it isn’t appropriate to isolate groups into separate demographics.  

ROA will be working on indexing options over the next couple of weeks. If ROA members have suggestions for an index, please let national headquarters know. DoD plans to have a follow-up meeting with the associations within a month. House Armed Services Committee testimonies are expected to be scheduled in mid-March.

Second meeting on military health care

Another meeting on military health care was held last week with the House Armed Services Committee’s majority staff director. While overall priorities were discussed during the two hour meeting, the latter part of the discussion focused on health care possibilities. (The Pentagon’s recommendations were still embargoed at this time.) It appears that House members are open to some military health care fee increase, and that they are interested in some type of mechanism or rule to govern annual increases in future years. The health care positions that ROA has taken since 2006 helped get ROA included in these early discussions.


John R. said...

The Administration must not try to balance the budget on the backs of the GIs who have paid the sacrifice of serving and preserving the Union, especially after it 'caved' on tax welfare for the rich in its give away tax rebate for millionaires and billionaires last fall. Find savings elsewhere, please!!!

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