I have four girls in my family… three daughters and one of my two very special nieces… with spouses or significant others in the military or NG/Reserves. One daughter is married to a career Navy man and has always kind of been my sounding board for things affecting the effects of the current political bickering on rank and file military personnel.
Alas however, none of the four can be exactly called “impartial” or “bipartisan” as far as politics is concerned and neither can Blue Girl, my boss lady at They Gave Us A Republic, who spent 20 some odd years as a military wife and is my only other close tie to things military although she resides at the opposite end of the political spectrum as the first four. I have no doubt that while all of them could and would provide me with accurate data and figures, the raw data would also come with a healthy dose of personal opinion and ideology and in this particular case that’s not what I’m looking for.
So when something like this comes along that has an affect on the picture that expends beyond purely partisan politics and there’s a need to extract raw facts from several sets of opinions, I’m forced out into the real world to do my own homework, something that a lazy character such as myself would rather avoid when possible.
Today, I have one of those situations going on and I’m finding myself trying to find some way to either tie the two major developments involved together and speak to them as a single issue or to clearly separate them and address them as two entirely separate stories.
Number one of these of course is the Obama administration’s efforts to raise the fees for enrollment in TriCare which is the Military’s primary managed care option or MHO. We’re not talking a a normal rate increase here. We’re not talking about an Anthem Blue Shield style exorbitant increase. We’re talking about roughly tripling the fees that TriCare would be allowed to charge to provide coverage for military retirees and their families.
Out of several pages of potential sources of info on this subject, I elected to go first with Military .com on the subject. Military.com has long been a go-to of mine when I needed quick anwsers to complicated questions in most things military and what I wanted to find out in this case is how long this proposal had been in the works and perhaps who or what was actually behind it. This article by Tom Philpott from December, 2005 is the earliest mention I could find.
Defense Department officials have drafted plans to raise TRICARE enrollment fees and deductibles sharply over the next three years for military retirees under age 65 and their families, about three million beneficiaries.
If the changes touted by senior Defense officials are adopted, annual enrollment fees for TRICARE Prime, the military’s managed care option, would triple by October 2008 for working-age retired officers and double for enlisted retirees.
Yearly deductibles for retirees using TRICARE Standard, the fee-for-service health insurance option, would double for officers and rise by a third for enlisted. Also, for the first time retirees who use TRICARE Standard would pay an enrollment fee in addition to their deductible.
Pharmacy co-payments also would be raised but for all retirees and their families, regardless of age, if they use the retail drug network or the TRICARE mail order program to buy brand name drugs on the military formulary.
The aim of these initiatives is to slow the projected rise in military healthcare costs by as much as $12 billion over five years and $32 billion through fiscal 2015. This would occur, proponents argue, by having working-age retirees pay a greater share of TRICARE costs and by encouraging others to switch to their employer-provided health insurance.
Now here’s where it gets a little sticky for me. Stories are suddenly popping up on Facebook, in those never ending “pass it on” chain emails and around the Net with titles such as “Obama Wants To Triple health Care Costs for Military Families”. There are minor variations but the thrust is always the same… that the Obama administration is behind a huge plot against our military personnel. Of course, a simple look at the date on which the above article appeared… almost three full years before Obama was even elected… well, the conclusion is inescapable. This is a Republican proposal, offered up during a Republican administration at a time when Republicans controlled both houses of congress so maybe we should be looking a little below the surface on this one.
However, I’m not going to belabor the obvious. And one reason I’m not going to do so is because it appears that just as in MANY of the initiatives established late in the Bush administration such as TARP and the automobile industry bailout, there is every appearance at this time that though PBO didn’t actually ORIGINATE the proposal, he does appear be following through on it and is actually SUPPORTING it … at the very least in the case of military retirees… by threatening to veto the Personnel & health budget if it’s not included and the administration does indeed appear to be behind it’s reintroduction and/or other factors as to why it’s once again become an issue. There’s more to be dug up of course, but with what we have now, that’s it in a nut shell.
Most of you who know me know that I’m not going to support anything… no matter WHOSE idea it might have been… that hurts or otherwise doesn’t support our military and our veterans, from the very wars that wound them in mind and body to the benign neglect that has more of them dying by their own hand today than by enemy action. This… at least based on the info at hand… appears to be one of those factors that I in no way support and until I see or hear something different, I’m against ANY increase in insurance premiums for our serving personnel OR our veterans, including retirees.
IMHO, what we have here is simply another grab for profits by our beloved insurance industry, aided and abetted by the administration and… if they allow it to stand… the congress. There’s nothing new going on… just a continuation of the same old same old. It’s happening in dozens of other “industries” and to millions of other people every day.
We’ll talk about Situation #2, next post.