In an effort to cut defense spending, the Obama Administration plans to cut health benefits for active duty and retired military personnel and their families while not touching the benefits enjoyed by unionized civilian defense workers.
The proposed increases in health care payments by service members, which must be approved by Congress, are part of the Pentagon’s $487 billion cut in spending. It seeks to save $1.8 billion from the Tricare medical system in the fiscal 2013 budget, and $12.9 billion by 2017.
Not everybody is happy with the plan, however.
Military personnel would see their annual Tricare premiums increase anywhere from 30 – 78 percent in the first year, followed by sharply increased premiums “ranging from 94 percent to 345 percent—more than 3 times current levels.”
“According to congressional assessments, a retired Army colonel with a family currently paying $460 a year for health care will pay $2,048,” Gertz wrote.
Active duty military personnel would also see an increased cost for pharmaceuticals, and the incentive to use less expensive generic drugs would be gone.
Health benefits has long been a prime reason many stay in the military – but some in the Pentagon fear the new rules will hamper recruitment and retention.
“Would you stay with a car insurance company that raised your premiums by 345 percent in five years? Probably not,” one aide said.
John Hayward of Human Events adds:
Veterans will also be hit with a new annual fee for a program called Tricare for Life, on top of the monthly premiums they already pay, while some benefits will become “means-tested” in the manner of a social program – treating them like welfare instead of benefits for military service. Naturally, this is all timed to begin next year and “avoid upsetting military voters in a presidential election year,” according to critics.
There will be congressional hearings on the new military health care policies next month. Opposition is building in Congress, and among veterans’ organizations, including the VFW, which has “called on all military personnel and the veterans’ community to block the health care increases.”
Others are concerned about the double standard being set between uniformed military personnel – who are not unionized – and civilian defense workers who belong to public sector unions.
A second congressional aide said the administration’s approach to the cuts shows a double standard that hurts the military.
“We all recognize that we are in a time of austerity,” this aide said. “But defense has made up to this point 50 percent of deficit reduction cuts that we agreed to, but is only 20 percent of the budget.”
The administration is asking troops to get by without the equipment and force levels needed for global missions. “And now they are going to them again and asking them to pay more for their health care when you’ve held the civilian workforce at DoD and across the federal government virtually harmless in all of these cuts. And it just doesn’t seem fair,” the second aide said.
At least one Congressman is standing with the military on this issue.
“We shouldn’t ask our military to pay our bills when we aren’t willing to impose a similar hardship on the rest of the population,” said Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon (R-CA), who chairs the House Armed Services Committee.
“We can’t keep asking those who have given so much to give that much more,” he added.
McKeon will be joined by some 5 million members of 32 military service and veterans groups, according to retired Navy Capt. Kathryn M. Beasley of the Military Officers Association of America, who called the plan “a breach of faith.”
The Beacon also noted the curious timing of the plan, which is set to begin next year – after the 2012 elections. Critics say this is designed so as not to upset military voters.
It’s one more reason Barack Hussein Obama does not deserve to be re-elected in November.