Bipartisan legislation introduced in the House and Senate last week would extend TRICARE health coverage to part-time National Guardsmen and Reservists who for work for the federal government.
The bills, each called the Tricare Reserve Improvement Act, have been referred to the Senate and House Armed Services Committees and have the support of NGAUS.
“Current law denies a valuable benefit to thousands of Guardsmen and Reservist,” said retired Brig. Gen. J. Roy Robinson, NGAUS president. “This important legislation would help them save thousands of dollars a year in health care premiums while ensuring their families have continuity of care when they are deployed.”
The legislation was introduced by Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., and Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W. Va., in the Senate and by Rep. John Garamendi, D-Calif., and Rep. Trent Kelly, R-Miss., in the House.
Under current law, federal employees who serve in the Guard or Reserve are prohibited from participating in Tricare Reserve Select. They must purchase their coverage from the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, which is generally more expensive than TRS.
Legislators said it creates “a financial incentive for transitioning service members to take their skillset and credentials away from the federal government, and penalizes those who choose to serve their country in a civilian capacity.”
“Our National Guardsmen deserve affordable healthcare options,” Daines said. “Senseless laws shouldn’t stand in the way of that. It’s time we provide our Guardsmen and Reservists with the care they need and this bill does just that.”
In the Senate, the legislation is co-sponsored by several members of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
“Guardsmen and Reservists should not be forced to pay more for health insurance because they choose to work for the federal government rather than in the private sector,” said Sen. Doug Jones, D-Ala. “The Tricare Reserve Select program has proven to be a valuable recruiting and retention tool for the Guard and Reserve for years. Current law punishes those who choose to also serve their government in a civilian capacity.”
“It is only fair that we allow anyone who joins the Guard or Reserve to access their health insurance plan,” he added. “These service members and their families sacrifice on behalf of all of us. They have earned these benefits.”