NGAUS Washington Report
(May 28, 2013) In what may be a sign of things to come, the Pentagon’s request for higher fees for TRICARE users was quickly deep-sixed last week by the first group of lawmakers to consider it.
The House Armed Services subcommittee on military personnel rejected nearly all of the fee increases found in the president’s budget for fiscal 2014. It left alone an increase for $12 to $16 in co-payments for outpatient care under TRICARE Prime for retirees under age 65.
According to news reports, Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., the subcommittee chairman, made clear immediately that the TRICARE fee increases would not receive approval.
“Congress spoke last year and the year before on this issue,” he said to open the meeting. “So I find it difficult to understand the department’s continued effort to increase these fees especially when the department’s estimates of health care cost growth have been wrong. They have continued to reprogram money from the defense health program for other purposes.”
Under the president’s plan, most TRICARE fees would increase over time to help pay for increased personnel costs that Pentagon officials say threaten the ability to purchase new weapons systems and prepare the force for war.
For example, the deductible for families using TRICARE would go from $300 now to $400 in 2015 and then jump $60 each year from 2016 to 2018.
NGAUS opposes the increased fees saying the Pentagon should not bring its expenses in line by punishing veterans.
The House panel also rejected a 1 percent pay raise requested in the president’s budget.