Bill Gertz at the Washington Free Beacon writes of a growing controversy in Congress and the Pentagon over the Obama administration’s latest brainstorm for cutting our defense budget:
The Obama administration’s proposed defense budget calls for military families and retirees to pay sharply more for their healthcare, while leaving unionized civilian defense workers’ benefits untouched. The proposal is causing a major rift within the Pentagon, according to U.S. officials. Several congressional aides suggested the move is designed to increase the enrollment in Obamacare’s state-run insurance exchanges.
The disparity in treatment between civilian and uniformed personnel is causing a backlash within the military that could undermine recruitment and retention.
The proposed increases in health care payments by service members, which must be approved by Congress, are part of the Pentagon’s $487 billion cut in spending. It seeks to save $1.8 billion from the Tricare medical system in the fiscal 2013 budget, and $12.9 billion by 2017.
(Emphasis mine.) Military personnel have voiced some understandable concerns about this little scheme, which could “severely impact efforts to recruit and maintain a high-quality all-volunteer military force.” Here’s why:
Significantly, the plan calls for increases between 30 percent to 78 percent in Tricare annual premiums for the first year. After that, the plan will impose five-year increases ranging from 94 percent to 345 percent—more than 3 times current levels.
According to congressional assessments, a retired Army colonel with a family currently paying $460 a year for health care will pay $2,048.
The new plan hits active duty personnel by increasing co-payments for pharmaceuticals and eliminating incentives for using generic drugs.
Veterans will also be hit with a new annual fee for a program called Tricare for Life, on top of the monthly premiums they already pay, while some benefits will become “means-tested” in the manner of a social program – treating them like welfare instead of benefits for military service. Naturally, this is all timed to begin next year and “avoid upsetting military voters in a presidential election year,” according to critics.
There will be congressional hearings on the new military health care policies next month. Opposition is building in Congress, and among veterans’ organizations, including the VFW, which has “called on all military personnel and the veterans’ community to block the health care increases.”
Retired Navy Capt. Kathryn M. Beasley, of the Military Officers Association of America, said the Military Coalition, 32 military service and veterans groups with an estimated 5 million members, is fighting the proposed healthcare increases, specifically the use of mean-testing for cost increases.
“We think it’s absolutely wrong,” Beasley told the Free Beacon. “This is a breach of faith” for both the active duty and retiree communities.
A strong opponent has already emerged in the House of Representatives:
“We shouldn’t ask our military to pay our bills when we aren’t willing to impose a similar hardship on the rest of the population,” Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee and a Republican from California, said in a statement to the Washington Free Beacon. “We can’t keep asking those who have given so much to give that much more.”
Besides relieving the pressure for spending reductions in the many, many programs that Barack Obama and the Democratic Party would rather fund than benefits for soldiers, an important Obama political objective is served by these cuts:
Administration officials told Congress that one goal of the increased fees is to force military retirees to reduce their involvement in Tricare and eventually opt out of the program in favor of alternatives established by the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare.
“When they talked to us, they did mention the option of healthcare exchanges under Obamacare. So it’s in their mind,” said a congressional aide involved in the issue.
In other words, this is part of the overall strategy to dump as many Americans as possible into those budget-blasting “public exchanges,” which were already on course to cost at least $460 billion by 2019. The Heritage Foundation completed a study last year that concluded this cost could more than double, if enough private-sector employers decide to wash their hands of Obama’s health-care nightmare and dump their employees into the public exchanges… and that study didn’t anticipate a tidal wave of military veterans sliding into the deficit pit.
The long-term goal of provoking utter collapse in the ObamaCare “hybrid” of public control and private insurance will be met more swiftly, paving the way for the same people who shoved the ObamaCare fraud down America’s throat to declare the only real solution is a total government takeover: single-payer socialized medicine.
Congratulations, soldiers! You’ve been “recruited” into an operation Barack Obama considers much more important than national defense. That’s a fair assessment, isn’t it, liberals? After all, you’re always insisting that public funding is the sole measure of how much “America cares” about any other topic. Cutting those compulsory tax “investments” means the heartless budget-cutter just doesn’t “care” about the people who will be “harmed” by the cuts. That must certainly apply to the military – one of the very few programs our central government actually is authorized to spend money on by the Constitution. If not, can you explain why not?