Proposal Could Increase Military Retiree Health Care Costs
A proposal by President Bush would require many military retirees to pay more for health care, a plan that "could force the Republican-run Congress to choose between savvy politics and budget discipline," the AP/Long Island Newsday reports. Annual health care costs for military personnel have doubled to almost $38 billion over the past five years and likely will increase to $64 billion by 2015.
In response, Bush in his fiscal year 2007 budget has proposed to increase prescription drug copayments for all members of TRICARE, the military health care program, and increase annual enrollment fees for military retirees younger than age 65 (Sidoti, AP/Long Island Newsday, 2/21).
The proposed fee increases would affect about 3.1 million military retirees nationwide. Annual enrollment fees for TRICARE Prime, the managed care program, currently are $230 for an enlisted retiree or retired officer and $460 for a family.
Under the proposal, the fees would increase to $325 for a junior enlisted retiree and $650 for a family; $475 for a senior enlisted retiree and $950 for a family; and $700 for a retired officer and $1,400 for a family. In addition, under the proposal, copays in the TRICARE retail pharmacy network would increase to $5 from $3 for generic medication and to $15 from $9 for brand-name treatments (California Healthline, 2/14).
The Department of Defense maintains that the proposal is necessary to reduce military health care costs, but congressional support for the plan remains uncertain.
According to the AP/Newsday, "If lawmakers want to follow Bush's lead and control spiraling health care expenditures, they will have to vote to boost costs for some of the nation's military families in a year in which the entire House and one-third of the Senate is up for re-election." In addition, some opponents maintain that the proposal would prompt military retirees to shift from TRICARE to health plans sponsored by their current employers.
An increased number of private employers, as well as some state and local governments, in recent years have asked military retirees on their payrolls to use TRICARE rather than company health plans to help reduce costs, AP/Newsday reports (AP/Long Island Newsday, 2/21).