Wednesday, March 16, 2011

ROA testifies on Defense health program efficiencies

ROA legislative director CAPT Marshall Hanson testified before the House Armed Services Military Subcommittee on Military Personnel at a hearing on health care reform this morning. The testimony followed a hearing held the day before where Pentagon representatives talked about their recommendations for change.

-ROA Written Testimony
-Hearing: 'Military Health System Overview and Defense Health Program Cost Efficiencies: A Beneficiary Perspective'
-ROA Current Issues: TRICARE

CAPT Hanson testifies on health care reform.
In addition to addressing changes to the retiree medical fees, ROA spoke about issues affecting serving Reservists. ROA advocates efforts that would ensure a continuity of health care and discussed including eligibility for the Continued Health Benefit Plan, ensuring that all Guard and Reserve being detached from active duty are eligible for TAMP, and reviewing premium levels for TRICARE Retired Reserve. In the written statement, ROA recommends TRICARE Reserve Select (TRS) eligibility for members in the Individual Ready Reserve (IRR). It is felt by some Reserve leadership that once some of these gaps are fixed, more Guard and Reserve members will subscribe to TRS.

ROA spoke about a DoD proposal to increase TRICARE Prime fees for families by $60 dollars a year ($30 for individuals). ROA's position is that it the change is acceptable, based on the logic that it is better to have a small increase now, rather than big increases later. ROA emphasized in its statement that the most important point of the hearing was to establish a process involving Congress, the beneficiary associations, and DoD in determining acceptable rates.

CAPT Hanson also said that the suggested increase to TRICARE retail pharmacy copayments of two to three dollars was not excessive, but he also said that initial prescriptions at retail sites should be exempted. Increased copayments are intended to encourage TRICARE beneficiaries to use the mail order system for maintenance drugs. If DoD’s proposal is accepted, mail order generic drugs will have zero copayment and copayments for branded drugs will not be increased.

DoD has proposed that future rate increases be determined on an index which will structure automatic annual increases. ROA questioned the Pentagon’s plan, accepted a suggestion that would align any increase percentage to the increase in a retirees pay, but also suggested that there is a need to explore other indices should a COLA basis not be accepted.

While DoD did not recommend increases for TRICARE Standard or TRICARE for Life, ROA included preemptive language in its written testimony, as the association is concerned that the Pentagon could suggest fee increases in future years.

When asked about tiering TRICARE fees to rank, ROA pointed out that Reservists only make 25 to 30 percent of active duty retirement pay, and that it would be unfair to charge both components higher fees based on rank. When asked for efficiency savings, ROA mentioned mobilization readiness and the savings that could be found with Reserve dentists and doctors treating Guard and Reserve members readying for activation. ROA also pointed out that just as TRS provides Reservists exportable health care, making them an attractive hire to smaller businesses, the active retiree health care allows smaller companies to afford to employ military retirees, helping this nation’s economy. Asked if TRICARE costs are high because beneficiaries go to doctors of their own choosing, ROA pointed out that the big cost was not patients going to doctors, but to emergency care.


BeTheDad said...

A discussion topic I don't see is one related to the overall healthy nature of military reservists - active and retired. As they are in a state of readiness, without having any imperical data to support the supposition, I suspect both Reservists and their family members are healthier than their non-military counterparts. As a result, medical costs should also be significantly less.
I encourage ROA to encourage the Pentagon and Congress to research the cost of medical support for Reservists and their families to contrast and compare with the general population with which there most certainly has been extensive study and reporting to Congress.

Anonymous said...

Dear Senators -- Save the EFV,
The secretary of defense hand picked this commandant for the single purpose of canceling the EFV. The previous commandant enthusiastically endorsed the EFV. Many in the marine corp want the EFV, but because the commandant has decreed that it be cancelled, they have fallen in line, following orders. Two guys want it cancelled, all the rest are following orders.

The EFV is a good vehicle and is what the Marines need. We (civil servant and contractor) have done over the last 3 years everything the government ask us to do and more. The vehicle meets all of its requirements, and is very reliable. We have met and exceeded all our EVMS requirements. And now, as a reward, we are losing our program and our jobs.

Not right; not fair.