By Lorra B.
It is no secret that the U.S. Military faces many obstacles when it comes to overhauling its healthcare system. Soon, policymakers in Washington will be contemplating one of the military’s biggest Tricare changes yet.
The changes being considered could save the Pentagon billions, according to Military Times. The new plan would also be “greatly enhancing health services for nearly 9.2 million active-duty family members, retirees and their dependents.”
What Helps Fund the TPP? Medicare Cuts.
But, what do these changes really mean for military veterans of retirement age?
According to the Department of Defense’s Statistical Report on the military retirement system, the number of U.S. Military Retirees in 2014 was 1,970,816 persons. That is a large number of retirees and the decisions being made by our government will have a huge impact on every one of them.
Retired Navy CPO, Ray Richard, wrote to us at Silent Soldier with very valid concerns and has given us permission to share them:
Hi, my name is Ray. I’m a retired Navy CPO. I am pretty well set as things go in this life. I have my Navy pension which is just above the poverty line for a single guy. However, I’m married and have been for 45 years. My wife served as a Navy wife by my side. My financial butt was saved because I worked and studied hard while I was in the Navy and when I got out I got a job teaching “to be” electrical engineers in the local state university. When I retired from that I got a state pension. A whopping $450 a month! But it helped. Then I got social security. More help. Then I got Medicare/Tricare medical coverage. I have to say, compared to many I am blessed.
BUT, I want you to keep this in your memory as time goes by and you write about the state of affairs of military people. Obama took $700 Billion out of the Medicare fund we all paid into. He also helped institute huge funding cuts to the military. He continues to try to cut military funding.
When he stole from Medicare, the costs shifted to Tricare for military retired over 65 to pick up the increased gap between what the doctors got and what Medicare paid them. Somewhere along the line here your going to hear that the medical costs for retired military is going up at tremendous percentages. When you hear that send up the red flag and remind people that the increase is due to Medicare cuts. It is not entirely due to higher medical costs.
Thank you for covering the military. They deserve and need all the support they can get.
ATC Ray Richard Retired
We happen to agree with Mr. Richard. The U.S. Military men and women need all the support they can get. So we looked into what some of the changes may look like that are being suggested to Tricare but, first, lets glaze the surface at what the Obama Administration’s proposed 2016 cuts for Medicare are.
Waste and abuse are what the administration is looking to cut from Medicare Advantage Plans “for the elderly, seeking more than $36 billion in cuts (which is itemized in a Department of Health and Human Resources $1 trillion budget cut) over the next decade to curb costly government over-payments to the industry,” according to The Center For Public Integrity.
Medicare Advantage’s interim executive director, Krista Drobac, stated, “Piling on billions more cuts will only do more harm to the 16 millions of seniors who count on Medicare Advantage for higher quality, more affordable health coverage. These annual cuts have resulted in higher out-of-pocket costs and lost benefits for seniors across America.”
The government, however, believes they have a good reason for the cuts. In a practice know as ‘upcoding,’ it seems the White House believes that some doctors and health plans tend to exaggerate just how sick some patients are and, therefore, charge the government in excess.
There are six known whistleblowers lawsuits pending regarding the Medicare health plans over-billing the government. Perhaps waiting for the outcome of these lawsuits would be in order before simply cutting funding to the program?
By 2025, $913 billion could be cut to Medicaid and the health-care system for the poor, according to Boomerang Politics. “House Republicans are proposing to cut $5.5 trillion in U.S. government spending and balance the budget in nine years by cutting Medicaid and food stamps and partially privatizing Medicare.”
Please note, there are several ‘plans’ of attack on the Health System so do your own research to see what you come up with. The bottom line, however, is that cuts WILL be made and in a huge way.
Finally, how will these cuts affect Tricare? Well, one Tricare pitch would see Tricare (Prime, Standard and Extra) consolidated into one structure geared at making it much more difficult for families to use the emergency room for every-day healthcare needs and to encourage veterans to seek out military facilities or network providers. Or, there is the option of simply paying more for the services rendered. This would be a $47.8 billion budget request, according to Military Times.
In this plan, there would be no increase in co-shares or co-payments if for active-duty veterans or their families and if seen in network or at military clinics and hospitals. But how will this affect Retirees?
“The one that would have the biggest impact on currently serving troops and retirees under the age of 65 would be Recommendation 6: “Increases access, choice and value of health care for active-duty family members, reserve component members and retirees by allowing beneficiaries to choose from a selection of commercial insurance plans offered through a Department of Defense health benefit program.’”
“Retirees below age 65 and their family members would pay annual ‘participation fees,’ (currently called enrollment fees). Starting in 2017, annual fees would rise to $289 for an individual, up from 277.92, and to $578 for a family, up from $555.84.
“Retirees also would begin making co-payments for services at military treatment facilities, ranging from $10 for a primary care visit to between $20 and $50 for specialty care, urgent care, emergency room services and ambulatory surgery.
“Visits to a network provider for retirees and family members would range from a $20 co-pay for primary care to $100 for a network ambulatory surgery visit.”
These increases may not seem astronomical upon first glance. However, many veterans financially are barely getting by (if at all), let alone with the promise of increases in the near future.
For Retirees, here are the cost Break-downs:
Obama’s budget is calling for a national security program increase of $38 billion and another $37 billion for domestic programs. While he is increasing national security budgets, applaudably, he is also inadvertently taking away from it by dipping into the wallets of our Veterans by increasing the costs of their healthcare.
Granted, what was put together here barely scratches the surface of the complicated healthcare reform initiative and it can not be argued, budget cuts need to be made, but not at the expense of our Veterans.
By Lorra B.
A special thanks to Mr. Richard for allowing us to share his story. Sadly, his story is one among hundreds.
God Bless each and every one of you, our beloved Veterans!