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Obama to cut healthcare benefits for US military

11 comments, 1104 views, posted 10:39 pm 27/02/2012 in News by Quaektem
Quaektem has 14366 posts, 1781 threads, 153 points, location: Logic and reason are the gnashing of teeth in a world ruled by emotions.

Trashing Tricare
Obama to cut healthcare benefits for active duty and retired US military

The Obama administration’s proposed defense budget calls for military families and retirees to pay sharply more for their healthcare, while leaving unionized civilian defense workers’ benefits untouched. The proposal is causing a major rift within the Pentagon, according to U.S. officials. Several congressional aides suggested the move is designed to increase the enrollment in Obamacare’s state-run insurance exchanges.

The disparity in treatment between civilian and uniformed personnel is causing a backlash within the military that could undermine recruitment and retention.

The proposed increases in health care payments by service members, which must be approved by Congress, are part of the Pentagon’s $487 billion cut in spending. It seeks to save $1.8 billion from the Tricare medical system in the fiscal 2013 budget, and $12.9 billion by 2017.

Many in Congress are opposing the proposed changes, which would require the passage of new legislation before being put in place.

“We shouldn’t ask our military to pay our bills when we aren’t willing to impose a similar hardship on the rest of the population,” Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee and a Republican from California, said in a statement to the Washington Free Beacon. “We can’t keep asking those who have given so much to give that much more.”

Administration officials told Congress that one goal of the increased fees is to force military retirees to reduce their involvement in Tricare and eventually opt out of the program in favor of alternatives established by the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare.

“When they talked to us, they did mention the option of healthcare exchanges under Obamacare. So it’s in their mind,” said a congressional aide involved in the issue.

Military personnel from several of the armed services voiced their opposition to a means-tested tier system for Tricare, prompting Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey to issue a statement Feb. 21.

Dempsey said the military is making tough choices in cutting defense spending. In addition to the $487 billion over 10 years, the Pentagon is facing automatic cuts that could push the total reductions to $1 trillion.

“I want those of you who serve and who have served to know that we’ve heard your concerns, in particular your concern about the tiered enrollment fee structure for Tricare in retirement,” Dempsey said. “You have our commitment that we will continue to review our health care system to make it as responsive, as affordable, and as equitable as possible.”

Under the new plan, the Pentagon would get the bulk of its savings by targeting under-65 and Medicare-eligible military retirees through a tiered increase in annual Tricare premiums that will be based on yearly retirement pay.

Significantly, the plan calls for increases between 30 percent to 78 percent in Tricare annual premiums for the first year. After that, the plan will impose five-year increases ranging from 94 percent to 345 percent—more than 3 times current levels.

According to congressional assessments, a retired Army colonel with a family currently paying $460 a year for health care will pay $2,048.

The new plan hits active duty personnel by increasing co-payments for pharmaceuticals and eliminating incentives for using generic drugs.

The changes are worrying some in the Pentagon who fear it will severely impact efforts to recruit and maintain a high-quality all-volunteer military force. Such benefits have been a key tool for recruiting qualified people and keeping them in uniform.

“Would you stay with a car insurance company that raised your premiums by 345 percent in five years? Probably not,” said the congressional aide. “Would anybody accept their taxes being raised 345 percent in five years? Probably not.”

A second congressional aide said the administration’s approach to the cuts shows a double standard that hurts the military.

“We all recognize that we are in a time of austerity,” this aide said. “But defense has made up to this point 50 percent of deficit reduction cuts that we agreed to, but is only 20 percent of the budget.”

The administration is asking troops to get by without the equipment and force levels needed for global missions. “And now they are going to them again and asking them to pay more for their health care when you’ve held the civilian workforce at DoD and across the federal government virtually harmless in all of these cuts. And it just doesn’t seem fair,” the second aide said.

Spokesmen for the Defense Department and the Joint Chiefs of Staff did not respond to requests for comment on the Tricare increases.

The massive increases beginning next year appear timed to avoid upsetting military voters in a presidential election year, critics of the plan say.

Additionally, the critics said leaving civilian workers’ benefits unchanged while hitting the military reflect the administration’s effort to court labor unions, as government unions are the only segment of organized labor that has increased in recent years.

As part of the increased healthcare costs, the Pentagon also will impose an annual fee for a program called Tricare for Life, a new program that all military retirees automatically must join at age 65. Currently, to enroll in Tricare for Life, retirees pay the equivalent of a monthly Medicare premium.

Under the proposed Pentagon plan, retirees will be hit with an additional annual enrollment fee on top of the monthly premium.

Congressional aides said that despite unanimous support among the military chiefs for the current healthcare changes, some senior officials in the Pentagon are opposing the reforms, in particular the tiered system of healthcare.

“It doesn’t matter what the benefit is, whether it’s commissary, PX, or healthcare, or whatever … under the rationale that if you raise your hand and sign up to serve, you earn a base set of benefits, and it should have nothing to do with your rank when you served, and how much you’re making when you retire,” the first aide said.

Military service organizations are opposing the healthcare changes and say the Pentagon is “means-testing” benefits for service personnel as if they were a social program, and not something earned with 20 or more years of military service.

Retired Navy Capt. Kathryn M. Beasley, of the Military Officers Association of America, said the Military Coalition, 32 military service and veterans groups with an estimated 5 million members, is fighting the proposed healthcare increases, specifically the use of mean-testing for cost increases.

“We think it’s absolutely wrong,” Beasley told the Free Beacon. “This is a breach of faith” for both the active duty and retiree communities.

Congressional hearings are set for next month.

The Veterans of Foreign Wars on Feb. 23 called on all military personnel and the veterans’ community to block the healthcare increases.

“There is no military personnel issue more sacrosanct than pay and benefits,” said Richard L. DeNoyer, head of the 2 million-member VFW. “Any proposal that negatively impacts any quality of life program must be defeated, and that’s why the VFW is asking everyone to join the fight and send a united voice to Congress.”

Senior Air Force leaders are expected to be asked about the health care cost increases during a House Armed Services Committee hearing scheduled for Tuesday.

Congress must pass all the proposed changes into law, as last year’s defense authorization bill preemptively limited how much the Pentagon could increase some Tricare fees, while other fees already were limited in law.

Tricare for Life, Tricare Prime, and Tricare Standard increases must be approved, as well as some of the pharmacy fee increases, congressional aides said.

Current law limits Tricare fee increases to cost of living increases in retirement pay.

http://freebeacon.com/trashing-tricare/

Comments

0
10:45 pm 27/02/2012

Cnik

False... The executive branch is not responsible for military pay cuts or raises...

1
10:51 pm 27/02/2012

Quaektem

It's part of Obama's proposed budget: http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/budget/Overview

Quote:
The Obama administration’s proposed defense budget calls for military families and retirees to pay sharply more for their healthcare, while leaving unionized civilian defense workers’ benefits untouched.

...

The proposed increases in health care payments by service members, which must be approved by Congress, are part of the Pentagon’s $487 billion cut in spending. It seeks to save $1.8 billion from the Tricare medical system in the fiscal 2013 budget, and $12.9 billion by 2017.

Thank you for playing.

0
11:19 pm 27/02/2012

Cnik

Military pay raises are based on the Employment Cost Index.......not anything Obama has done. The GOP are the ones keeping wages low. Guess they forgot this one.

1
11:29 pm 27/02/2012

HariSeldon

Quote by Cnik:
Military pay raises are based on the Employment Cost Index.......not anything Obama has done. The GOP are the ones keeping wages low. Guess they forgot this one.


Seriously? I understand you making the mistake the first time. You were upset that someone insulted Obama and didn't bother to read before you rose in indignation. Fine I've been guilty of the same thing.

However even after it was explained you still fail to comprehend the article. Obama's budget, his suggestion on how to structure the country's revenue/expenditures would effect the military's pay and benefits. So yes, he personally can't lower their wages/benefits. He is just pushing that agenda. That is what he feels should happen. Or he may even be using that as a bargaining tool who knows. The point is that his budget would lower their benefits not that he has already did so or even has the ability to do so.

0
12:05 am 28/02/2012

Weedenski

weren' these cuts mandated because nobody could agree on spending cuts/tax increases to balance the budget?
these were the end result of the politics that both sides have played. Mandatory default cuts to pentagon and other programs.

0
12:59 am 28/02/2012

Quaektem

Quote by Cnik:
Military pay raises are based on the Employment Cost Index.......not anything Obama has done. The GOP are the ones keeping wages low. Guess they forgot this one.



This isn't wages, it's health benefits. Did you even read the title?

0
1:03 am 28/02/2012

Quaektem

Quote by Weedenski:
weren' these cuts mandated because nobody could agree on spending cuts/tax increases to balance the budget?



Pretty much, this Politico article explains it pretty well: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/1111/69263.html It lists a $1 billion cut in Mandatory Defense Spending over eight years (Obama's heath care cuts are almost twice that in the first year). The other $454 billion in mndatory cuts are listed as New Defense Discretionary Spending... which seems (to me at least) a far cry from healthcare for soldiers and veterans.

Now, the question still lingers... why are health benefits being cut for the military by a President mandating his idea of minimum coverage on everyone else (and don't tell me that heath care is the only thing in the military budget with any wiggle-room)?

0
3:30 am 28/02/2012

z0phi3l

Quote by Cnik:
False... The executive branch is not responsible for military pay cuts or raises...


Wow you hate the Military THAT much?

1
12:23 pm 28/02/2012

Vormid

It is a pretty heavy increase but just a couple things need to be cleared up I think.

"According to congressional assessments, a retired Army colonel with a family currently paying $460 a year for health care will pay $2,048."

This is a YEAR, okay? A YEAR.

Do you have any idea what a retired Army Col takes home? I know that the current 0-6 (COL) base pay is 10351 a month. This does not include all of the other bonuses they get like for time over seas or combat pay, housing, etc... I know they don't take home their base pay, but let me tell you it's likely a FAT chunk of it.

With all that being said, it still sucks that they are chipping away at those that defend.

What you should all realize that there are others who serve the country who are not in the military who have been getting boned for the past several years. They support those that fight. It's not a good idea to castrate them either.

2
2:41 pm 28/02/2012

elsels

I'm gonna sit back and watch how all this plays out, first they want to screw with their retirement that they have been paying into for their entire careers and now the insurance. Trust me when I tell you that Tricare for military personnel sucks for the most part, it is good for the families if they can get a great mediator and are lucky to find a good MTF, terrible for retirees but mostly very expensive for retirees and families if they are not in Prime. Tricare is not like it was back in the day when it was Champus and Champva that was widely accepted all over. The deductibles are pretty high as well as copays.

1
2:55 pm 28/02/2012

Vormid

Everyone screamed for a reduction of government spending...here is a taste of what is to come.

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