For the vast number of Americans who comprise the military retirement community, there is probably no more sensitive issue than the healthcare they are guaranteed. This is not some government beneficence: these people were promised it when they joined the military and it is part of the retirement benefits they’ve earned by decades of service.
But now every part of America’s healthcare system is, in political terms, “in play.” Nothing is safe while Congress is tinkering.
But, for the moment, the military retirement healthcare system – called “TRICARE” – is apparently safe.
When the Obamacare bills were first being drafted, the cost to military veterans for TRICARE would have been raised.
In congressional “markups” – where the bills are amended in committee — the Obamacare bill would have changed the terms of TRICARE treating it, and taxing it, like any other employer provided healthcare. Despite Obama’s promise to keep veteran healthcare “essentially as is”; Rep. Buyer (R. In) said that “Under the [original] health care plan, veterans would be subject to taxes because the VA health care plan would not have recognized as an acceptable health care plan”
Beyond having to re-label the VA healthcare “acceptable converge”, the bill had to be amended to allow our veterans to continue having the coverage they have had, without raising the cost. Rep. Joe Wilson (R. SC) amended the bill to ensure that military families, retirees, and DoD were exempted from certain employer requirements.
Wilson said about the amendment prior to it passing “The purpose of this amendment is to shield the men and women of our armed forces from onerous mandates and possible coverage deterioration as a result of this bill’s complex new health care governing scheme. Specifically, I believe we must exempt TRICARE from the “pay or play” employer mandate and other benefit mandates that would place an additional burden on this program that serves military personnel and their families,”
TRICARE is a vitally important part of the national healthcare infrastructure. Wilson said “Currently, TRICARE provides world class health care to 9.4 million beneficiaries who currently serve or have served this nation…in 2008 TRICARE was rated the best health care insurer in the nation according to the Wilson Health Information survey of customer satisfaction.”
If something as important and well run as TRICARE was not protected in the health care bill, what else do we have potential to lose?
There is enormous pressure on congress to bring the cost of Obamacare – now about $1.2 trillion over 2 years – down considerably. When the bills are debated further – and amended again and again – there will likely be a try to raise the cost of TRICARE to veterans and their families.
The military retirement community should be vocal – now at the August town hall meetings and in Washington when Congress returns – to prevent Obama and congress from breaching the contract America has with our veterans and their families.