A proposal from Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., could potentially make it more difficult for retirees and active-duty family members to get healthcare. McCain has proposed barring military retirees from signing up for Tricare Prime, the least expensive Tricare option available to them. Tasked with making deficit-reduction decisions, the Senate Armed Services Committee will take a close look at veteran benefits.
Approximately 5.2 million people are currently enrolled in Tricare Prime, with 1.5 million of those potentially being affected by McCain’s plan. Nearly 71 percent of retirees and retiree family members in Tricare Prime rely entirely on the military for health care. That would drop to 35 percent and reduce Tricare costs by $111 billion over 10 years under the McCain proposal, according to the Congressional Budget Office’s estimate.
Factored into the CBO’s savings estimate is that veterans and families forced out of Prime would voluntarily reduce doctors visits and other expenses because of the higher fees. The proposal could have the secondary effect of reducing the number of civilian doctors willing to accept patients in the Tricare network because of low reimbursements. Tricare Prime patients must be accepted by doctors in the network, but Tricare Extra and Standard carry no such mandate.
While an Oct. 14 letter to the deficit panel from Republicans on the House committee urges “caution” when considering cuts in benefits for current and future retirees, the plan has attracted bipartisan support, including Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich.
McCain’s proposal is one of many being considered in closed-door deliberations of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, beginning Oct. 19, with decisions expected by Nov. 18.
TRICARE UPDATE: As of October 1, 2011 military retirees who choose to enroll in TRICARE Prime will be required to pay an increased annual enrollment fee of $260 (individual) and $520 (family). Currently enrolled retirees will begin paying the new annual enrollment fees in January 2012.
Trivia Question #2: In the 1920’s, this Devil Dog enlisted for the “term of life.” This hard-charging Marine was promoted from Private to Sergeant Major within three years. He died shortly after, but was buried with full military honors. What was his name?
Photo thanks to http://mccain.senate.gov.