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Sunday, April 11, 2010

Military, Health Care and TriCare

I am a fortunate recipient of TriCare health insurance so I was glad to see this information from General Gordon R. Sullivan, President, AUSA. Thanks, too, to my friend and author D.H.Brown, board member of the Military Writers Society of America (MWSA).

How Does Health Care Reform Affect Military TriCare Subscribers?

"Well, folks, the question in the title is on everyone’s mind, so I asked our AUSA government affairs staff to put together a Q and A to help allay
any fears that TRICARE is going to be negatively affected by the civilian
health care reform legislation.

Before we get to the Q and A, I want to give a BIG AUSA tip of the hat to
House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton, D-Mo., for introducing
legislation which explicitly states that TRICARE and non-appropriated fund
(NAF) health plans meet all of the health care requirements for individual
health insurance. This technical correction will ensure TRICARE
beneficiaries don’t suffer any inadvertent penalties under the language of
civilian health care reform legislation passed by the House recently.

"While beneficiaries of these programs will already meet the minimum
requirements for individual health insurance and will not be required to
purchase additional coverage, H.R. 4887, The TRICARE Affirmation Act,
provides clarification by changing the tax code to state it in law. The
bill was approved in the House by a vote of 403 to 0.

Member of the legislature Skelton assures us that...'In the health care bill currently under consideration in Congress, TRICARE and the Non-Appropriated Fund health plans, the programs that providehealth care for these individuals, will meet the minimum requirements forindividual health insurance coverage, and no TRICARE or NAF health plan beneficiary will be required to purchase additional coverage beyond what they already have.

"'However, to reassure our military service members and their families and
make it perfectly clear that they will not be negatively affected by this
legislation, my bill, H.R. 4887, explicitly states in law that these health
plans meet the minimum requirements for individual health insurance.'"

In addition to the legislation, Skelton, along with Reps. Bob Filner,
Chairman, Committee on Veterans Affairs; George Miller, Chairman, Committee
on Education and Labor; Sander Levin, Chairman, Committee on Ways and
Means; and Henry Waxman, Chairman, Committee on Energy and Commerce sent a
letter to the Committee on Rules advising that they reviewed the health
care reform bills to assess the impact of the bills on the health care
provided by the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans

The letter stated, “Our reviews of H.R. 3590 and H.R. 4872 lead us to
believe that the intent of the bills was never to undermine or change the
Department of Defense and Department of Veterans Affairs operation of their
health care programs or interfere with the care that our service members
receive under TRICARE. However, we commit to look into this issue further
to ensure that no unintended consequences may arise and to take any
legislative action that may be necessary.”

So there you have it This is just a start. One important thing to
remember is that most of the changes that will occur in civilian health
care are years away. If at some point it is discovered that inadvertently
something in the bill would have an adverse impact on military or veteran
health care, there is plenty of time to enact legislation that will fix it
– and that is what your Association is here for – to advocate for
legislation that helps soldiers and their families.

Your part in all this is to maintain your membership – only with a large
membership can AUSA speak loudly in numbers that resonate on Capitol Hill.
Keep the faith, troops – AUSA is here to help you. Now here are the Q and

Q1. Will the new legislation transfer TRICARE into another government
health care program?

A1. No. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act leaves TRICARE
under the sole authority of the Defense Department and the Secretary of
Defense, and TRICARE is governed by an independent set of statutes. “For
the Department of Defense, and specifically for our 9.6 million TRICARE
beneficiaries, this law will not affect the TRICARE benefit. Eligibility,
covered benefits, co-payments and all other features of our TRICARE program
remain in place” - Assistant Secretary of Defense (Health Affairs) Dr.
Charles Rice

Q2. What does deeming TRICARE as “qualifying coverage” mean?

A2. It ensures that TRICARE beneficiaries will not be impacted by the new
legislation’s requirement that people without qualifying coverage will have
to pay a financial penalty. Just to make it clear, the House unanimously
passed separate legislation on March 20, deeming TRICARE as “qualifying
coverage” under the new law. On the Senate side, S. 3148 and S. 3162 have
just been introduced to deem TRICARE "qualifying coverage". Also, Defense
Secretary Robert Gates issued a statement asserting that health reform
“won’t have a negative effect on TRICARE.”

Q3. Is TRICARE for Life (TFL) considered “qualifying coverage” under the
new law?

A3. Yes, TFL is deemed qualifying coverage under the legislation already
passed by both the House and Senate.

Q4. Can I expect my TRICARE enrollment fee, premiums, deductibles or
co-pays to go up because of this legislation?

A4. There is nothing in the legislation that would change any TRICARE

Q5. The new health care bill allows adult children to stay on their
parent’s healthcare plan until age 26 if their employers don’t offer
insurance. Will TRICARE adopt this policy?

A5. Many beneficiaries with dependent children are very interested on how
the Act will impact their children age 26 and younger. TRICARE’s current
age limits - 21, or age 23, if the dependent is in a full-time school
program - are set by statute, so separate legislation would be required to
change them. If changes are made to the statue governing TRICARE, then,
like any other legislative initiative, time will be required for TRICARE to
implement the changes. Until that time, the benefit remains unaffected by
the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

To that point, Rep. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M. has introduced H.R. 4923, the
TRICARE Dependent Coverage Extension Act, a bill that would increase the
maximum age to 26 at which our troops and military retirees are allowed to
provide health coverage to their dependent children.

Q6. I understand Medicare is cut $500 billion under the new law. Won’t
that have to cut payments to doctors and threaten TFL?

A6 It’s true that the new law reduces Medicare spending by about that
much, but most of those changes are relatively less painful ones that
probably won’t affect TRICARE or TFL beneficiaries much.

They include $118 billion from eliminating the extra subsidy to the
Medicare Advantage HMO program (which was sold to Congress as a cost-saver,
but actually costs 14 percent more per person than Standard Medicare),
cutting about $150 billion from non-rural hospitals (which the hospital
associations say they can handle because expanding insurance coverage to
most Americans will mean they won’t have to eat the cost of serving the
uninsured), and cutting back abuses in medical equipment (under current
systems, Medicare will buy you a wheelchair you may only need a few months,
or allow a company to rent you one for life for a permanent condition).

Carolyn Howard-Johnson wrote the foreword for Eric Dinyer's book of patriotic quotations, Support Our Troops, published by Andrews McMeel. Part of the proceeds for the book benefit Fisher House. Her chapbook of poetry won the Military Writers Society of America's award of excellence. Find it at Her novel, collection of creative nonfiction and much of her poetry is informed by interest in leading the world toward acceptance of one another. Find her web page dedicated to tolerance at If your Twitter followers would be interested, please pass this on to them using this widget:

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