1 July 2013 Legislative News Update 

7/1/2013 

Legislative News is AUSA Government Affairs Directorate's
weekly electronic newsletter, and is published
every Monday when Congress is in session.




In this issue:

  • Army Announces Restructuring Plans
  • An End to the Doc Fix?
  • TRICARE Prime Legislation Passes House

★★★
ARMY ANNOUNCES RESTRUCTURING PLANS

In response to the Army’s announcement that it is reducing end strength and reorganizing brigade combat teams, Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Rep. Howard P. "Buck" McKeon, R-Calif., said, “As damaging as they are, these cuts don't begin to reflect the crippling damage sequestration will do to our Armed Forces and National Security. The Committee will carefully examine the implications of this initial restructuring, but we all must understand that this is only the tip of the iceberg, much deeper cuts are still to come. America learned the hard way that our pre- 9/11 military was too small. Now, even before sequestration, we are reducing the force to that same size and foolishly expecting history to teach us a different lesson. What lessons will we learn when sequester doubles these cuts in just a few months' time?”

The Army plans to reduce the authorized endstrength of the Active Army from 570,000 to 490,000 and the Army National Guard from 358,000 to 350,000 and will inactivate a total of 12 BCTs.

In a press conference last week, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno said, “The reduction of 80,000 Soldiers or 14% from the Active Component will be completed by the end of fiscal year 2017. Let me be clear, we are taking these actions as a result of the Budget Control Act of 2011. This endstrength and force structure reduction predates sequestration. If sequestration continues into Fiscal Year 2014, Army reductions to endstrength, force structure and basing announced today will be only the first step.”

Later in the press conference, Odierno reiterated, “I want to emphasize that these reductions do not reflect reductions due to sequestration. Full sequestration could require another significant reduction in Active, Guard, and Reserve force structure as much as 100,000 combined.”

AUSA President Gen. Gordon R. Sullivan said that “Congress must find an alternative to sequestration. Everyone needs to be reminded of history’s lessons, of the dangers of a hollow Army that is called to fight the first battle of the next war – but without enough manpower, training or weaponry to do the job – of an Army which then pays the price of unreadiness in the blood of too many Soldiers killed or wounded while they train the hard way – during war not before it.”


AN END TO THE DOC FIX?

Working with the House Committee on Ways and Means, leaders from the House Energy and Commerce Committee have unveiled draft legislation that would repeal the current Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) system and replace it with a fair and stable system of physician payments in the Medicare program.

Enacted in 1997 as part of the “Balanced Budget Act,” the SGR is a continued concern for physicians who serve Medicare beneficiaries and for the beneficiaries themselves. Because payments to doctors who treat TRICARE beneficiaries are tied to Medicare, it also affects active duty, reserve, and retired military personnel and their families. For years, Congress has implemented a temporary “doc fix” to prevent substantial Medicare reimbursement rate cuts, which could result in fewer physicians willing to serve Medicare/TRICARE patients.

The draft legislation would replace the current SGR with an enhanced fee-for-service system, while allowing providers to opt out and participate in alternative payment models. A contractor would evaluate the alternative models through demonstration programs, and report on those that work best.

Although the draft legislation provides a clearer picture of the proposed new payment system, it does not address how to pay for the cost of repealing the current payment system. The Congressional Budget Office estimates the cost of repeal would be $139.1 billion over 10 years.

What’s next: Health Subcommittee Chairman Joe Pitts, R-Penn., said he plans to hold a markup of the legislation next month.


TRICARE PRIME LEGISLATION PASSES HOUSE

Legislation (H.R. 1971) that would require the Defense Department to offer the TRICARE Prime managed health care option in places where the department plans to discontinue the program was passed by the House as part of the defense authorization bill.

Due to a policy change, more than 170,000 veterans across the country who live outside 100 miles of a military treatment facility will lose access to TRICARE Prime on Oct. 1, 2013.

Introduced by Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., the legislation would afford every affected veteran the opportunity to continue their enrollment in TRICARE Prime or move to TRICARE Standard, depending upon which plan best fits their needs.

Since there is no similar provision in the Senate’s version of the authorization bill, whether or not it is included in the final bill will have to be negotiated in the House-Senate conference committee