Rethinking TRICARE Benefits

May 4, 2010 | Health Care| Other Spending

Admiral Roughead (Navy), General Conway, (Marine Corps) and Admiral Allen (Coast Guard) all took the spending challenge today, arguing that retired military officers and their families should have to pay more for their health care. According to CongressDaily

The leaders of the three naval services on Monday argued for an increase in the fees retired military personnel and their families pay for health care, something Congress has refused to approve for more than a decade...all complained about the soaring costs of healthcare and said increased contributions by the retirees for their TRICARE coverage is overdue.

Currently, TRICARE for retirees charges no premium (and only a $150 deductible) under its standard plan, and a premium of just $230 per person (with no deductible) under the 'prime' plan. This is far too little to cover the programs costs.

Admiral Allen explained yesterday that he and his wife had just signed up for TRICARE Prime at a cost of only $465 and "something needs to be done about that." General Conway agreed, explaining that there has not been an adjustment in the retirees payments for TRICARE in two decades.

This is particularly troubling given the speed at which health care costs have grown over that time period.

Fortunately, the Congressional Budget Office has scored several options to help rein in TRICARE costs. One option, to introduce minimum out-of-pocket requirements under "TRICARE for Life" would save $40 billion through 2019. Another, to increase cost-sharing for certain military retirees, could save $20 billion.

And frankly, there is plenty more where that came from if we are willing to start looking at the health and retirement benefits of veterans, military officers, and federal employees. In general, the benefits received by those working for the federal government tend to far exceed those offered in the private sector.

Of course, we as a country have an obligation to take care of the brave men and women who put themselves in harm's way to protect us. But to get our debt under control and prioritize our spending, we're all going to have to play a part.

We thank Admiral Roughead, General Conway, and Admiral Allen for understanding that.