TRICARE for Life: Is Obama Trying to Sucker Punch U.S. Veterans?

President Barack Obama's first budget proposal is a travesty. His first deficit is projected to be $1.8 trillion. The numbers could be worse except for potential nickel-and-diming of American servicemen and women. "Option 96" in the current Health Care budget proposal would reduce the cost to government of providing the Tricare for Life (TFL) program, but such a cost reduction would be a sucker punch to American veterans--especially those on fixed incomes.

The Constitution of the United States lists only 18 things that the federal government can do. At last count, they were doing about 18 million things, but of the

Thousands upon thousands of servicemen and women have answered the call of their country. A significant number of them have answered the call with their lives. You'd think their government would take care of them.

original 18 federal responsibilities, several of them refer to defending our country. Such things as
  • declaring war
  • raising and supporting Armies
  • providing and maintaining a Navy
  • calling forth, organizing, arming, and disciplining the Militia.
are included in the list of 18 responsibilities. Which means that those who perform such duties ought to be justly compensated for their selfless service.

Regardless of how any of us felt about the political situations that have accompanied the various wars the U.S. has been involved in, thousands upon thousands of servicemen and women have answered the call of their country. A significant number of them have answered the call with their lives. You'd think their government would take care of them.

I served in the Utah Army National Guard for nearly 25 years. When I left my civilian job twice for service in Iraq, I took a significant cut in pay. Everyone knows that the military does not pay very well. The least the government could do is make it up to me when I reach retirement age.

The latest budget proposal from the Congressional Budget Office (see page 175) seems to be trying to save a relative few pennies at the expense of military veterans. TRICARE for Life (TFL) is a program that was created in 2002 that supplements Medicare for military retirees and their families. "Option 96" on page 175 of the Health Care version of the latest budget proposal would make a significant modification to TFL.
This option would help reduce the costs of TFL, as well as costs for Medicare, by introducing minimum out-of pocket requirements for beneficiaries. Under this option, TFL would not cover any of the first $525 of an enrollee’s cost-sharing liabilities for calendar year 2011 and would limit coverage to 50 percent of the next $4,725 in Medicare cost sharing that the beneficiary incurred. (Because all further cost sharing would be covered by TFL, enrollees could not pay more than $2,888 in cost sharing in that year.)
I have about 15 years to worry about how I'm going to deal with a $3,000-per-year increase in medical premiums (probably $6,000 by then); for me it may not be a big deal, because I have a 401k and a pension from my civilian job. But for someone who is at or approaching retirement--especially someone who retired after a full-time career in the military, Option 96 is potentially devastating.

How would increasing costs for veterans save money for the government? Option 96 lists 3 ways:
  1. To reduce demand for tricare medical services.
  2. To reduce beneficiaries’ incentive to switch to Military Treatment Facilities to avoid the out-of-pocket costs of comparative civilian health plans.
  3. To increase Tricare For Life beneficiaries’ awareness of the cost of health care and promote a corresponding restraint in their use of medical services.
I know what the verbiage of the budget trying to say, but that sounds to me like at least two slaps in the face for aging veterans.

It is true that when people pay for at least part of a service they receive--including medical care--they will use more discretion when using the service. But to sock something like this to someone who lived in just expectation of being covered is a grave disservice to the defenders of American liberty.

In previous years, the Bush Administration has considered advocating similar cost increases for veterans. Due to advocates of the military in Congress, the costs were not increased. It appears that, for the same reason, "Option 96" will not be enacted this year.
Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ) today applauded President Obama's 2010 budget that prevented increases in enrollment fees, premiums and pharmacy co-payments for TRICARE -- the military community's health plan.

"We owe our troops and their families the best quality healthcare at affordable prices," said Sen. Lautenberg. "As our soldiers and sailors remain steadfast in their duty to protect America, it is our duty to provide for them both when they return and when they retire."

For the past three fiscal years, the Bush Administration's Defense Department had proposed increases in the enrollment fees, deductibles and copayments of retired members of the uniformed services who are participants in the TRICARE program. Sen. Lautenberg worked successfully to prohibit such increases in past years...
Regardless of congressional success in past years at preventing such cost increases to veterans, I don't have a warm and fuzzy trust that the government will do the right thing this time just because they have previously.

Your Congressperson and Senators could probably use a phone call from you, your friends, and your family members. Tell them to respect our veterans by giving them the health benefits they deserve.




Comments

  1. Considering the things in which this bloated budget "invests," any 'cost containment' measures amount to nothing more than political sniping.

    ReplyDelete
  2. My husband VOLUNTEERED TO GO TO VIET NAM, NOT TO BE EXPOSED TO AGENT ORANGE HE HAS SOFT TISSUE SARCOME (CANCER) WE HAVE BEEN FIGHTING FOR 9 YEARS HE GOT THE CANCER AT AGE 50 AND NOW OMB IS GOING TO TAKE AWAY OUR HEALTH CARE ON VISIT TO THE HOSPITAL AND WE LOSE EVERY THING, OUR HOME OUR LIVES, NOT FAIR OMB

    ReplyDelete
  3. Can you cite a source? I googled Option 96 and the only thing that came up was another blog. I'm a skeptic; I need proof.

    ReplyDelete
  4. You do realize that the publication you cited the Congress Budget Office was dated Dec 08? President Obama was not in office then. If you read Option 96, you will see that whoever wrote it was trying to shift costs from the DOD to Medicare. Option 97 directly affects retirees.

    ReplyDelete
  5. See the link in my article that says "latest budget proposal from the Congressional Budget Office (see page 175)". That link points to a CBO document. "Option 96" or something similar has been on the docket for the last few years. I'm glad that Obama didn't include it in his latest budget.

    ReplyDelete

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