Monday, March 7, 2011

ROA Responds to TRICARE Fee Proposals

In the past month, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and the Center for American Progress (CAP) have proposed raising TRICARE fees to bring health care costs under control.

Gates’ proposal, contained in the 2012 Department of Defense (DoD) budget, calls for raising annual TRICARE contributions by more than 11 percent, leading to savings of $424 million over the next five years. The CAP proposal goes further, calling for a $120 enrollment fee for family members, $500 deductible for working-age retirees, and nixing continued benefits for gainfully-employed veterans.

ROA legislative director CAPT Marshall Hanson explains ROA’s reaction to the two proposals:

Regarding the DoD proposal…

The proposed fee increase was more "modest" than ROA anticipated. While labeled by some associations as a 13 percent increase, it is such an increase after over 10 years without changes to TRICARE Prime enrollment fees. As this increase is a $30 annual increase for individuals, and a $60 annual increase for families, ROA does not find this part of the proposal excessive. Of concern is the indexing of this enrollment fee on an annual basis.  DoD has not yet identified a specific index, using a 6.2 percent annual increase as a basis for budgeting. 

At this point ROA has no comment on indexing without knowing more specifics, although ROA is reviewing possible indices, seeking what might be the best to use for military retirees. A Medicare-based index penalizes those retirees under age 65 as they don't suffer the same ailments as retirees in the older group. Furthermore, ROA has never supported an indexing based on a commercial comparison because of the differences between military and private health plans. A better understanding of DoD's health care costs and what is driving up the expense is needed.

Although retired, in earlier times these beneficiaries have accepted risks and made sacrifices in their past military careers that have not been asked of the remaining 99 percent of the nation’s population. TRICARE fulfills an on-going promise by the government for continued health care to those who have served or are serving.

ROA’s concern is finding a fair and equitable approach where retirees won’t be overburdened.  Sustaining these health care benefits for the next generation of retiree is key.

And the CAP proposal…

ROA is on the record of not supporting income means testing as a method of determining health care fees, especially if based on gross income or vice military retirement. 

CAP proposes to:
Limit double coverage for working-age retirees above a certain income level
• Create incentives to reduce overuse of services
• Establish fair procedures to regulate future cost sharing

ROA doesn't view TRICARE as double coverage, and concurs with other associations that this benefit provides retirees an opportunity to seek employment.  ROA sought TRICARE Reserve Select for drilling Reservists because health care became exportable and makes the applicant more attractive to employers. The same logic needs to apply to retirees. Also of note, in today's economy is that working age no longer tops out at age 65.

CAP also proposes to:
• Increase cost sharing to encourage responsible use of Tricare for Life benefits

TRICARE for Life-eligible retirees are paying monthly premiums and are already being means tested; no additional fees should be included beyond Medicare Part "B" for TFL coverage.

The issue of reining in TRICARE spending at DoD will loom large in budget debates in the coming months, and ROA will continue to monitor and participate in discussions to ensure productive and fair solutions are reached.

19 comments:

sheila said...

HEAR! HEAR!!!!

Anonymous said...

Does ROA have a dog in this fight for retired military under age 65? Isn't this a case of don't raise my fees, raise those guys over there ... the "working age" retired military. Didn't the retired military organizations help Reserve military gain access to military health care? Is this a payback or ingratitude?

Gordon said...

The issue is twofold, first I strongly object to the denigration of health care for the military to the realm of "benefit" not entitlement. Words do have meaning. The military is entitled to health care and this is an obligation of Government with a Constitutional basis much higher than Public Education, Medicare, Social Security or Medicaid! When a nation puts its citizens (the military) at physical risk form disease and traumatic injury it absolutely owes them health care not health insurance. PERIOD! This is where all discussion must start I expect all ROA representatives to begin with this premise and be firm in this language. The military is not a Public Service union looking for a benefit package and should never be so equated!

Only secondly, once we have established this well-earned and entitled position, can we begin to discuss the real world economics, establish priorities and try to fund this care as we fight for our nation's very existence during the GWOT. I want the ROA to negotiate realistically but we must be very careful in our terminology. The DOD bureaucrats want to frame this conversation as a benefit package to recruit and retain to meet "job" requirements, we must never let them forget we are not civilian contractors with the right to quit if we don't like our orders, We are different and the Congress owes a very different debt to those citizens who can be ordered to be injured or die for their country. The last dollar of Military Health Care should be funded before the first dollar is put into Medicaid. How can a nation that does not have the means to take care of its defenders afford to provide free Health Care to anyone?

Rich said...

Let's see...use 6.2% as a budget figure. How about tying it to something more realistic; such as the annual Social Security increase. Based on last year's and this year's increases, that would be NOTHING.

Anonymous said...

Amen, Rich!

Anonymous said...

How about provide tricare for free. It is the least you can do for a retired veteran.

Anonymous said...

As a lifetime member of both ROA and MOAA, I realize and have personal experience with the sacrifices made by the military and how we've earned our health care benefits. However, like all entitlements, cuts have to be made -- $460 a year, in this day and age, is ridiculously low. I believe DoD's current plan is fair for the most part and I support both ROA's and MOAA's stand on this issue.

John said...

Life time health care for military retirees is more than a mere Entitlement, it is deferred earned compensation and as such should come before all government expenditure other than non-deferred compensation for government employees (both military and civilian).

Requiring the purchase of Medicare Part B in order to receive already earned military retiree health care constitutes a breach of contract by the government. ROA should actively seek the removal of this requirement, with a refund of all Medicare premiums already paid while TFL coverage was in effect -- refunds with interest at the rate IRS imposes on delinquent taxes.

Anonymous said...

How about we cut free hand outs to people who don't work and have done nothing. We need to start there instead of starting with those that choose to work and serve.

Anonymous said...

Gordon is correct....Healthcare for military, all military, active, reserve and retired must be considered as owed to those who put their lives on the line for this country. No give, no take. Just do it! Healthcare for these cannot be considered a bargaining chip or a negotiable issue because we give our all for this country; for many years we risk all. Our country must back us before providing to any of those who do not serve. (by MST)

Anonymous said...

It is a totally incorrect assumption that working age military retirees automatically get good jobs with healthcare benefits immediately after their retirement from active duty. Typically they suffer a loss of income and allowances while they seek civilian employment, at a time when some of their children may be entering or attending college. TRICARE retiree enrollment fees should remain low.

ReserveOfficer said...

The Reserve Officers Association has been invited to testify on March 16 in front of the House Armed Services personnel subcommittee. The positions that ROA has taken on military health care in the past has led to this invitation, allowing ROA “to be a dog in the fight.” Traditional reservists do qualify for retiree health care between age 60 and 65.

As to health care for Reservists that would never have occurred without the initiative of the Guard and Reserve Associations, which advocated it to the retiree community, and sold it to Congress. It should be noted that serving Reservists (and now Retirees) get fee increase, while Congress put a hold on other TRICARE programs.

The retiree TRICARE health needs to be approached with the same respect that retiree deserve, but the retiree military organizations have diverse views on TRICARE fee increases. Columnist Tom Philpott wrote about these differences. ROA is just one more voice. ROA’s HASC testimony will be posted next week, along with the five other associations who will be testifying.

Link to Philpott story: http://www.kitsapsun.com/news/2011/feb/24/tom-philpott-military-groups-divided-over-bump/

Mike T said...

Gordon is absolutely correct. Health is part of the deal we all made when we served. Pulling the rug out now is despicable. I guess that called the apreciation of a grateful nation.
That said, I am not opposed to Tricare being secondary to private insurance provided by an employer for those who become reemployed after retiring from the military.

Maj. Cole (ret.) said...

Maj. Cole (ret.)
I strongly agree with all the comments about Tricare Prime. Since I am on Tricare for life, I am as is my wife greatful for this benefit. Even though we have to pay a premium, I feel that at this time it is not excessive. Since I am 69 years old and on a fixed income any increase will be burden. Keep up the fight.

Civil Affairs Vet said...

Changing the script in the middle of the play is essentially a sell-out of those who played by the rules and stayed in the Reserve Component for 20 or more years so they could obtain promised benefits. Now, having said that I am not adverse to paying more the $460.00 per year. I agree that is too low an amount to cover even the administration of the program benefits that my wife and I have. However there are many retirees who live on minimal incomes. I am very fortunate to have retired as an LTC [0-5] with over 30 years for pay purposes and 5590 points. Contrast that with a SGT E-5 with the same amount of time and points but who worked at minimum wage jobs for his or her entire civilian working career. There needs to be a "means test" so that the retired members of the Reserve Components with the lowest military pensions do not suffer.

Retiree's wife said...

I agree with most of the comments made but have some ideas of my own concerning this issue. One, to John - Medicare should be eliminted for those who are 65+ on TFL as it seems as though we are double dipping so to speak. To anonyous & Gordon I say, for those who "choose" not to work because they are "takers" don't deserve any government help - but those such as my 58yr old sister suffer as she has been out of work for a year; is now on disability (finally after suffering for 5 years) at $1200 a mth; bills total $1400 (just normal living expenses); gets a measely $25 food stamp help mthly; and has to pay cobra (till july 1, 2011) $450 a month over and above the $1400 - what a rip!! Now here's a person who needs government help and medicaid as medicare doesn't kick in until after 24 mths. We help her with expenses but with retirement a couple years away what do we do then - we can't afford medicare - its at $110 mth and will go up for sure - what then. We don't need it with the DoD healt care and we agree that the rate should go up - it's only fair. We'd rather pay more for TFL the pay the mthly medicare rip off! My husband has not used his empoyer's health care since he turned 60 - we have used DoD TC and now I (at 66) have TFL and "costly - worthless" Medicare!
My rambling may be wild but what I say I ean!

Anonymous said...

I am the widow of a military retiree who gave 28+ years of active and reserve service and retired as an O-5 (p). He was very proud of his service and so am I. I am a life member of MOAA and ROAL. My husband was a life member of ROA and MOAA. As a senior (I refuse to say I am "old")I am grateful to have TFL. My medication list would choke a giraffe anad I couldn't afford to live if it weren't for TFL medication benefits. I live on Social Security and military survivor income - which is an
entitlement, not a benefit. I would agree to a COLA increase in my drug costs but ONLY WHEN I receive COLA increase in my SS payments and my Survivor payments.

I have received an e-mail I support. Congress persons should have term limits. 12 years shoud do it. They should not have lifetime retirement income. As I understand it, they don't pay for medical benefits and they don't pay social security taxes, they have free mail priviledges (Franking priviledge). They have all sorts of priviledges the rest of us don't have. Their income surpasses what most of us earn. Put their private income in someone elses name? If you believe that, I have a bridge for sale. When Congress, both houses,
remember every day who they are
supposed to be working for, then maybe I will support "modest" increases in Tricare/TFL fees. The Military Coallition (TMC) fights for us. If you are retired military and don't belong to ROA, MOAA and the other members of TMC, officer and enlisted, then you should run out and become an active part of them NOW. Don't become a voice crying in the widerness. There IS strength in numbers!!!

Angela said...

We all served. I just looked at the reserve Tricare fee approximately $1200 a month for my family in comparison to $420 a year for those who have served 20 years straight active duty.

I am sure there are other retired reservists that is in the same situation as I am.

I would like to state that I served 17 years 11 months and 15 days on active duty and 15 years in the reserve time for a total of 32 years active and reserve.

I would not mind paying $1500 up to $2000 per year vice the $12000+

Can ROA represent us in this area?

ReserveOfficer said...

@Angela... ROA is representing you in that area: ROA testimony highlighted that TRICARE Retired Reserve premiums were too high, and asked the committee for a Government Accountability Audit to review, to at least try and reduce the premiums in the same way the TRICARE Reserve Select premiums. ROA also pointed out, while TRICARE fees remained static, both TRR and TRS premiums were permitted to be increased by Congress.