Rejection of TRICARE Fee Increases Expected
The House Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Personnel on Wednesday likely will reject a Department of Defense proposal to increase TRICARE fees for some military retirees, CQ Today reports (Donnelly, CQ Today, 4/24).
Under the proposal, developed by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, TRICARE copayments and enrollment fees would increase by 115% for military retirees younger than age 65. The Joint Chiefs have said that the fee increases would save TRICARE about $735 million in fiscal year 2007 and $11 billion over the next five years and are needed to improve the finances of the program.
The fee increases were scheduled to take effect on Oct. 1. However, armytimes.com on March 21 reported that DOD informed TRICARE contractors the fee increases will not occur on Oct. 1 (California Healthline, 4/17).
Subcommittee Chair John McHugh (R-N.Y.) on Wednesday plans to propose to delay the TRICARE fee increases until at least Dec. 31, 2007. The delay would provide Congress with "time to study the effects and savings generated by the Pentagon plan," CongressDaily reports.
McHugh plans to propose a commission of DOD health officials and outside experts to review structure, costs and benefits of TRICARE and to recommend Government Accountability Office and Congressional Budget Office studies of the program.
"None of what I'm proposing is intended to say there's not a challenge" with the future of TRICARE, McHugh said, adding, "There is a very serious one." (CongressDaily, 4/25).
In related news, the House and the Senate this year likely will consider proposals to extend TRICARE benefits for National Guard members and reservists. The FY 2005 defense authorization law extended TRICARE benefits to National Guard members and reservists mobilized after Sept. 11, 2001 -- regardless of whether they were no longer on active duty -- provided that they pay 28% of the premium.
However, many lawmakers "say all those who serve in the Guard and reserves deserve to get TRICARE at 28% of premium," CQ Today reports (CQ Today, 4/24).