WASHINGTON (May 27, 2021) — Nearly 45,000 current and former National Guard officers are applauding a bipartisan House bill that would provide medical coverage to the nation’s citizen-soldiers and airmen.
Introduced this week by Rep. Andy Kim, D-N.J., and Rep. Trent Kelly, R-Miss., the Healthcare for Our Troops Act (H.R. 3512), would offer no-fee coverage through TRICARE, the military’s health insurance program, to every Guardsman and Reservist.
The legislation is co-sponsored by Rep. Scott DesJarlais, R-Tenn., Rep. Steven Palazzo, R-Miss., Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., and Rep. Marc Veasey, D-Texas. Palazzo and Ryan are co-chairs of the House National Guard and Reserve Caucus.
“You would think members of the force America counts on to be always ready, always there would all have health insurance, but that’s just not the case,” said retired Brig. Gen. J. Roy Robinson, the president of the National Guard Association of the United States.
“In fact, we’ve had to send National Guard soldiers and airmen to the front lines of the worst public health crisis in a century without medical coverage,” he said. “We also did it during recent civil disturbances and we’ve done it when responding to hurricanes and wildfires. This legislation would ensure that never happens again. We applaud it.”
Current law provides coverage to part-time Guardsmen only when they are federally mobilized for more than 30 days. Most domestic missions are of shorter duration. Many are conducted under state active duty, which provides no health care under any circumstance.
In addition, Guardsmen must also be medically ready to respond with little to no notice. This can be challenging for the nearly one in five who have no private coverage and lack access to routine, preventive health care, Robinson said.
H.R. 3512 would enroll Guardsmen and Reservists into TRICARE Reserve Select at no cost.
TRS is currently a partially subsidized program for drilling Guardsmen and Reservists. They cover a monthly premium and co-pays for services. The legislation would eliminate all of those costs for participants.
That would provide Guardsmen and Reservist medical coverage on par with their active-component counterparts, Robinson said.
“We would never debate the need to provide medical coverage for active-component troops,” he said. “We need to view Guard soldiers and airmen in the same light.
“This legislation would also provide the Guard with a game-changing recruiting and retention tool, which would go a long way toward paying for the coverage,” he added. “And it will make our soldiers and airmen more attractive in the civilian job market. It’s the right thing to do for the Guard and the nation.”
No-fee or zero-cost TRICARE is a top NGAUS legislative objective for the formulation of the defense legislation for fiscal 2022.
It is also a legislative priority for Gen. Daniel R. Hokanson, the chief of the National Guard Bureau. He recently told Congress that it is “one of my most pressing concerns.”
Reporters, Editors & Producers: Retired Brig. Gen. J. Roy Robinson is available for interviews or to appear as a subject matter expert on issues related to the National Guard. Contact John Goheen at 202-408-5882 to schedule an interview or appearance.
About NGAUS: The association includes nearly 45,000 current or former Guard officers. It was created in 1878 to provide unified National Guard representation in Washington. In their first productive meeting after Reconstruction, militia officers from the North and South formed the association with the goal of obtaining better equipment and training by educating Congress on Guard requirements. Today, 143 years later, NGAUS has the same mission.