TRICARE Cost-Sharing Increases Off the Table for 2006
The Department of Defense has notified TRICARE contractors that increases in health care fees for military retirees under age 65 will not occur on Oct. 1 as previously proposed, according to a March 21 armytimes.com report, the Providence Journal reports (Reilly, Providence Journal, 3/27).
The plan, which was proposed by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, would increase TRICARE beneficiaries' copayments and enrollment fees by 115%. The Joint Chiefs have said that the payment increase -- which they estimate would save about $735 million in fiscal year 2007 and $11 billion over the next five years -- is necessary to improve TRICARE's financing (California Healthline, 3/15).
Under the plan, enrollment fees in the TRICARE Prime managed-care program would triple for retired officers, double for senior enlisted and increase 41% for retired enlisted in grades E-6 and below. Deductibles for the TRICARE standard fee-for-service option would "rise sharply" for retirees under age 65, who for the first time also would pay an enrollment fee, the Journal reports. TRICARE pharmacy copays would increase as well.
Health care costs for working-age retirees would increase by as much as $1,500 a year under the plan. DOD officials "have not given up on their basic proposal," but they "seem to recognize that fierce opposition from military and veterans groups and growing concern in Congress," the Journal reports.
Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Personnel Chair Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said, "There is no way we're going to have 115% fee increases over the next few years. Period."
House Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Personnel Chair John McHugh (R-N.Y.) said Armed Services Committee leaders had concerns about the "huge" cost-sharing increases, and added that they were concerned about DOD's own reservations about its cost-saving projections. Graham and McHugh have called for an impartial panel to review the proposal (Providence Journal, 3/27).