This post originally appeared at allenbwest.com.
One of the responsibilities I take very seriously as a result of having this platform is to keep y’all informed, especially my brother and sister veterans.
Right now the House and Senate Armed Services Committees are developing the defense authorization documents for our military. If there’s one thing I enjoyed about my time on the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) it was the job of agency oversight and authorization. The Fiscal Year 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) sets the mission and program priorities for our defense appropriations. At the National Center for Policy Analysis, where I’m Executive Director, we’ve developed a five-point petition with a policy focus for lawmakers regarding the NDAA. It’s called “Provide for the Common Defense Now!” and you can view it at www.ncpa.org.
We’ve reported here before regarding the use of food stamps in military commissaries. Say what you wish, but I find it abhorrent and unconscionable that we have young enlisted service members on food subsistence programs, while folks are demanding a $15 minimum wage.
So, in keeping with my responsibility to keep y’all up to speed, here’s an issue you need to be aware of — and maybe you can contact your Representative or Senator, and certainly those who sit on the HASC or SASC.
As reported by Military.com, “Many Tricare users would face annual enrollment fees in a newly named plan under a draft proposal released Monday by the House Armed Services Committee. Under the plan, current users of Tricare Standard and Tricare Extra would fall into the newly minted Tricare Preferred plan. Users would continue to be permitted to self-refer to providers, but doing so would come with an annual enrollment fee of $100 for individuals and $200 for families starting in 2020.
New Tricare users would pay even greater fees. Active-duty family members would pay $300 for an individual or $600 for families to enroll each year, while future retirees who joined the service after 2020 would pay $425 for an individual or $850 for families. New beneficiaries who want to use Prime can do so, but also at a cost. Active-duty families would pay $180 for an individual or $360 for a family, while retirees would pay $325 for an individual or $650 for a family. Current users would not pay to use Prime.
Under the new Preferred option, users would have no annual deductible, but would pay set fees out of pocket. For example, emergency room visits would cost $40 in network for active-duty families, and $60 for retirees. The catastrophic yearly cap would be at $1,000 for active-duty families and $3,000 for retirees.” Military Times notes: This story was corrected on April 26 to reflect that only currently serving beneficiaries and retirees who opt to use the Preferred plan after 2020 would face annual enrollment fees.”
Recently here at NCPA, we published a piece about Tricare and some issues facing our service men and women. I recall when I served on the HASC Subcommittee on Military Personnel that the cost of healthcare for our uniformed members and retirees was a concern. And it appears the HASC Subcommittee is attempting to try and rectify the situation. One of the issues with the current Tricare system is the low rate of reimbursement to medical professionals, in some cases lower than Medicaid. And, for those retirees and some men and women in uniform who aren’t on duty near a military installation, it may be difficult to find medical professionals who are listed as Tricare providers. The new Tricare Preferred Plan looks to open up more choices for those who “opt” in — but be aware of the increased cost.
What I want y’all to do is follow the NDAA progress which began this week in the HASC with what’s called the “mark-up” process. This means the proposed legislation has gone through the subcommittees and been “marked-up,” meaning reviewed, voted upon, corrected (amended), and submitted to the full HASC.
Now, the HASC Chairman, Texas Congressman Mac Thornberry, has conducted his “mark” of all the subcommittee submissions and the full HASC will undergo their “mark-up.” Once this NDAA package has gone through the mark-up in chambers, it will go to the full House of Representatives floor for debate, potential amendments and final votes. The same procedures are occurring over on the Senate side.
Now is the time for everyone to get plugged in and be aware of the policy decisions being made. As you can see, they also affect our military healthcare system. I hope y’all will indeed learn more about the newly created Tricare Preferred Plan and learn how it can impact you and your family.
And in closing, I am officially a Life Member of the 1st and 4th Infantry Division Associations. I will be attending and speaking at the Big Red One annual meeting in June in my hometown of Atlanta. These are my two combat divisions and I am honored and proud to be part of the legacy of two historic Army combat divisions both commanded by two former colleagues, MG Wayne W. Grigsby Jr. and MG Ryan F. Gonsalves, with whom I was a fellow Battalion Commander in the 4ID.
Duty First! Steadfast and Loyal!