The Officer May/June 2011 : Page-20

Capitol Hill ConneCtion Crowded House LegisLative staff RepoRt ROA emphasizes Tricare and Guard and Reserve issues at hearing. ongestion is expected on the way into Washington D.C., but it came as a surprise to find it in a hearing room on Capitol Hill in March. That’s when ROA was invited to testify on proposed military health care reforms. So many people wanted to contribute that the hearing ended up with seven organizations providing oral testimony on the beneficiaries’ panel. After several years of postponing an inevitable confrontation with retirees, the Pentagon revealed its recommendations for changes in the Tricare fee structure as part of the president’s 2012 budget request. These proved far more modest than what the Bush administration had previously suggested. Rather than doubling or tripling the fees as suggested by former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, the recommended increase was a $30 bump for the year for individuals to $260 a year and a $60 boost to $520 a year for families. The Department of Defense (DoD) proposed no changes to Tricare Standard or Tricare For Life costs. The only other proposed DoD increase is to hike the copay for prescription drugs to $5 for generics, $12 dollars for brand names, and $25 for nonformulary medications at retail pharmacies. ROA testified that such increases should only apply to maintenance prescriptions, not initial orders. Yet, even these slight increases were enough to draw impassioned responses from many retirees and other organizations. For them, any increase was too much. Some associations vowed to hold the line. Other organizations agreed with ROA that a $5 per month increase was tolerable but challenged the DoD premise that future increases should be tied to a published index—similar to how a retirement cost of living adjustment (COLA) is calculated. Some groups suggested that the COLA percentage should be the limit to health care premium increases. Except, the conundrum facing both retirees and the DoD health system is that health care costs, which are currently 9 percent of DoD’s budget, continue to increase, and the budget for DoD is beginning to decline. At some point, compromise 20 the When a nation puts members of its military at physical risk from disease and traumatic injury, it absolutely owes them health care, not health insurance. is needed. If changes aren’t discussed now, associations could be left out of deliberations in the future—and DoD can increase cost shares without congressional legislation. Because of ROA’s historically flexible positions on health care, the association was one of a small group to give oral testimony. CAPT Marshall Hanson, USNR (Ret.), ROA’s legislative director, testified about the need to sustain the health care program to which retirees are entitled. But as others talked about proposed premium hikes, ROA brought up other health issues affecting the National Guard and Reserve. CAPT Hanson pointed out to the committee that premiums were increased for Tricare Selected Reserve (TRS) and Tricare Retired Reserve (TRR) in January 2011, while Congress prohibited fee increases on Tricare active duty retiree beneficiaries. He also noted that DoD health affairs treats Reserve Component health plans as insurance, while Tricare for active duty is viewed as a benefit. ROA remains concerned over the high premiums charged for Tricare Retired Reserve and warned that only those gray-area retirees with health problems would likely enroll. ROA asked for a Government Accountability Office audit of the basis for establishing the high level of TRR premiums. Access to the Continued Health Care Benefit Plan is another problem, as Tricare Reserve Select beneficiaries remain the largest population in the country without access to COBRA transitional health care protections. ROA also addressed Reserve Component members not having access to Transitional Assistance Management Program benefits once they complete active duty, and how other reservists are advised to go to the Department of Veterans Affairs rather than use Tricare. Still, ROA concluded, “Health care services are vital to keeping the nation’s military force strong and ready. When a nation puts members of its military at physical risk from disease and traumatic injury, it absolutely owes them health care, not health insurance. While warriors may age into retirement, their contributions and sacrifice can’t be disregarded when a new generation faces a new era of strife.”  O fficer / M ay –J une 2011

Crowded House

Legislative Staff Report<br /> <br /> ROA emphasizes Tricare and Guard and Reserve issues at hearing.<br /> <br /> Congestion is expected on the way into Washington D.C., but it came as a surprise to find it in a hearing room on Capitol Hill in March. That’s when ROA was invited to testify on proposed military health care reforms. So many people wanted to contribute that the hearing ended up with seven organizations providing oral testimony on the beneficiaries’ panel.<br /> <br /> After several years of postponing an inevitable confrontation with retirees, the Pentagon revealed its recommendations for changes in the Tricare fee structure as part of the president’s 2012 budget request. These proved far more modest than what the Bush administration had previously suggested. Rather than doubling or tripling the fees as suggested by former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, the recommended increase was a $30 bump for the year for individuals to $260 a year and a $60 boost to $520 a year for families.<br /> <br /> The Department of Defense (DoD) proposed no changes to Tricare Standard or Tricare For Life costs. The only other proposed DoD increase is to hike the copay for prescription drugs to $5 for generics, $12 dollars for brand names, and $25 for nonformulary medications at retail pharmacies. ROA testified that such increases should only apply to maintenance prescriptions, not initial orders.<br /> <br /> Yet, even these slight increases were enough to draw impassioned responses from many retirees and other organizations. For them, any increase was too much. Some associations vowed to hold the line.<br /> <br /> Other organizations agreed with ROA that a $5 per month increase was tolerable but challenged the DoD premise that future increases should be tied to a published index—similar to how a retirement cost of living adjustment (COLA) is calculated. Some groups suggested that the COLA percentage should be the limit to health care premium increases.<br /> <br /> Except, the conundrum facing both retirees and the DoD health system is that health care costs, which are currently 9 percent of DoD’s budget, continue to increase, and the budget for DoD is beginning to decline. At some point, compromise is needed. If changes aren’t discussed now, associations could be left out of deliberations in the future—and DoD can increase cost shares without congressional legislation.<br /> <br /> Because of ROA’s historically flexible positions on health care, the association was one of a small group to give oral testimony.CAPT Marshall Hanson, USNR (Ret.), ROA’s legislative director, testified about the need to sustain the health care program to which retirees are entitled. But as others talked about proposed premium hikes, ROA brought up other health issues affecting the National Guard and Reserve.<br /> <br /> CAPT Hanson pointed out to the committee that premiums were increased for Tricare Selected Reserve (TRS) and Tricare Retired Reserve (TRR) in January 2011, while Congress prohibited fee increases on Tricare active duty retiree beneficiaries.<br /> <br /> He also noted that DoD health affairs treats Reserve Component health plans as insurance, while Tricare for active duty is viewed as a benefit. ROA remains concerned over the high premiums charged for Tricare Retired Reserve and warned that only those gray-area retirees with health problems would likely enroll. ROA asked for a Government Accountability Office audit of the basis for establishing the high level of TRR premiums.<br /> <br /> Access to the Continued Health Care Benefit Plan is another problem, as Tricare Reserve Select beneficiaries remain the largest population in the country without access to COBRA transitional health care protections. ROA also addressed Reserve Component members not having access to Transitional Assistance Management Program benefits once they complete active duty, and how other reservists are advised to go to the Department of Veterans Affairs rather than use Tricare.<br /> <br /> Still, ROA concluded, “Health care services are vital to keeping the nation’s military force strong and ready. When a nation puts members of its military at physical risk from disease and traumatic injury, it absolutely owes them health care, not health insurance. While warriors may age into retirement, their contributions and sacrifice can’t be disregarded when a new generation faces a new era of strife.”

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