Friday, January 13, 2006

The DoD is Forcing Veterans Out of Its Healthcare System - 600,000 of Them!

Military veterans, who chose careers in the service to their country, are now being told that their medical benefits are being stripped away because they get too much, percentage-wise, in comparison to civilian counterparts. But what is the real reason? So that more money is available for this administration to make bad choices or choose wrong priorities for our troops in support of current operations (e.g. Iraq) - literally robbing Peter to pay Paul:

To their credit, Assistant Secretary of Defense (Health Affairs) Dr. William Winkenwerder and his principal deputy, Dr. Steve Jones, went out of their way to talk to military association representatives about why the Defense Department wants to double or triple TRICARE fees for (military) retired beneficiaries. They came to Alexandria, Virginia to spend an hour with more than 50 representatives of The Military Coalition… But it was a frustrating meeting on both sides, as Coalition members had lots of questions about the specifics of the new proposals that Winkenwerder said he couldn't yet answer...Barred from discussing details, Dr. Winkenwerder briefed the Coalition on why the Department feels the need to shift more costs to retirees. (Among) his principal points were:

*Health costs are rising faster than the rest of the Defense budget, mainly because of legislated benefit expansions, increasing retiree use of care, and general health inflation.
*The military health benefit is "extremely rich," with military retirees averaging $680 in out-of-pocket health costs a year, vs. $3700 for retirees from civilian employers.
*As private sector employers have cut back on health benefits, the percentage of retirees actually using TRICARE has risen from 66% in FY2002 to 78% for FY2006, and is expected to rise to 87% by 2011 if current trends continue.

When Dr. Winkenwerder solicited comments, Military Officers Association of America, MOAA's Steve Strobridge, said comparison of military vs. civilian health costs fails to consider some critical points:

*Military retirement benefits are the only offset provided for the unique and extraordinary demands inherent in a 20-30 year military career.
*Military retirees have paid far greater premiums than civilians; they just paid most of them in service and sacrifice rather than in cash.
*Further, he said the Pentagon should be asking Congress for a bigger defense budget to pay for the needed benefit improvements Congress has enacted rather than seeking to fund those other defense needs out of retirees' pockets.
*80% of the savings associated with these proposals come from the assumption that the fee increases would drive 600,000 retirees out of TRICARE.

Asked whether the Defense Department would propose additional fee increases if that level of migration and savings didn't materialize, Dr. Winkenwerder indicated that option might be among those considered if the assumptions prove wrong.

Posted by a Vet -- -- permanent link