TRICARE won’t be affected by health care reform 

3/1/2010 

 

Julie Rudowski
Assistant Director, Government Affairs

Obama administration: TRICARE is safe and sound under health reform. The White House recently took steps to assure Americans who are covered by the military’s TRICARE health care system that legislation currently being debated in the House and Senate would not affect TRICARE benefits.

The blog, posted by Matt Flavin, director of Veterans and Wounded Warrior Policy stated:

"In recent days, a particularly disturbing myth about health insurance reform has resurfaced.  Opponents of reform have dredged up the baseless charge that reform somehow will affect or increase the cost of the TRICARE benefits on which America’s troops and veterans depend.

"The president believes our nation’s greatest strategic asset is our men and women in uniform. Our servicemen and women and their families have always sacrificed selflessly in defense of our ideals.   

"That is why one of the president’s top priorities since coming into office has been to give our veterans ‘the care they were promised and the benefits that they have earned.’  

"That began with the largest single-year increase in VA funding in three decades, and with initiating the Virtual Lifetime Electronic Record that will follow a member of the Armed Forces through their transition into VA care and stay with them for life.

"And it’s why there is absolutely nothing in health reform that will affect TRICARE benefits.

"The most recent TRICARE fear-mongering comes by way of viral email and relies on a document prepared by the government analysts before President Obama took office which outlined potential options for containing health care costs.  But here’s the thing: none of these options have been proposed by President Obama or adopted in health reform legislation. 

"In addition, there are reports out there that new taxes will be imposed on TRICARE.  That is not true either.  There are no new taxes.  No cuts in benefits.  If you hear a politician telling voters that health reform will hurt TRICARE, don’t believe him.

"If you rely on TRICARE, you have nothing to worry about."

While we appreciate the assurance from the White House, we have learned (the hard way) that proposed legislation can change or be interpreted differently than expected. That’s why we need for you to help us keep the pressure on Congress.

Go to AUSA’s Web site, www.ausa.org, click on the "Contact Congress" button at the top of the page and enter your zip code. 

We have several AUSA-suggested letters related to health care that you can send to your elected representatives. 

TRICARE program for gray-area reservists coming. The Fiscal Year 2010 Defense Authorization Act included a provision that will allow guard and reserve retirees who have not reached age 60 (gray-area retirees) to purchase health care coverage under TRICARE. This has been a long-time goal of AUSA’s and we consider it a major legislative victory.

TRICARE officials recently released some details about the new program. Tentatively named "TRICARE Retired Reserve," the program will allow gray-area retirees to purchase TRICARE Standard (and Extra) coverage. TRICARE Extra simply means beneficiaries have lower out of pocket costs if they use a network provider.

"We’re working hard to coordinate all the details of eligibility, coverage and costs, and expedite implementation of this important program," Rear Adm. Christine Hunter, deputy director of the TRICARE Management Activity, said.

Adding, "This is a major benefit program with implementation on the same magnitude as TRICARE Reserve Select (TRS). It will require detailed design, development and testing, but qualified retired reservists should be able to purchase coverage by late summer or early fall of 2010."

While the health care benefit provided for gray-area retirees will be TRICARE Standard and Extra – similar to TRS – the new program will differ from TRS in its qualifications, premiums, co-payment rates and catastrophic cap requirements.

The new statute requires premium rates to equal the full cost of the coverage. That is the major difference contrasted with TRS, where the statute provides that Selected Reserve members pay only 28 percent of the cost of the coverage.

Premiums for the new gray-area retiree program will be announced after program rules are published in the Federal Register. 

This new program offers an important health coverage option for reserve and National Guard members who served their country honorably before hanging up their uniforms at retirement, Hunter said.

We will provide updates on the TRICARE Retired Reserve program as details become available.