[HEALTH.MIL] House Approves Military Pay Raise (TRICARE and Other Changes)

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  • Date: Mon, 21 May 2012 12:55:53 -0500

House Approves Military Pay Raise (TRICARE and Other Changes)

By Kellie Lunney 

May 18, 2012


The House on Friday passed a bill giving military personnel a 1.7 percent pay
raise in 2013, as well as limiting increases to certain prescription drug
co-pays under the TRICARE program.

The chamber spent Thursday and Friday debating the fiscal 2013 National Defense
Authorization Act, eventually passing it Friday afternoon 299-120 after
considering 142 amendments. On Thursday, the House Appropriations Committee
advanced a defense spending bill that also includes a 1.7 percent pay boost for
service members.

The Defense authorization legislation rejects the Obama administration's
recommendations to raise premiums for military retirees based on their
retirement pay, among other fee hikes. "These proposals went too far and were
not included in the bill," committee Republicans said in a statement. TRICARE
serves 9.3 million beneficiaries, including 5.5 million military retirees.

Under Obama's plan, premiums for TRICARE retirees under the family plan would
increase between $31 and $128 per month, with those in the upper-income bracket
seeing the biggest hike. The White House in its budget recommendations also
proposed new co-pays, initiation of standard and extra annual enrollment fees,
and adjustments to deductibles and catastrophic coverage caps, all in an effort
to keep pace with medical inflation The administration said its recommended
changes to TRICARE would save the Defense Department an estimated $12.9 billion
in discretionary funding and generate $4.7 billion in mandatory savings on
Medicare-eligible retiree health care over the next five years. It is projected
to save the department $12.1 billion over the next 10 years.

The House-passed Defense authorization legislation modestly raises TRICARE
co-pays for brand and nonformulary drugs in 2013, ranging from an additional $4
to $19 either monthly or every three months, depending on the enrollee's
prescription refill schedule. It also would cap pharmacy co-pays beginning in
2014 so that such fees are in line with the annual retiree cost-of-living
adjustment. The costs associated with the fee increases would be offset by a
five-year pilot program requiring TRICARE for Life recipients to obtain
maintenance drug refills through the mail.

The president proposed increases for drug co-payments in the brand and
nonformulary categories that range from an additional $14 to $26 per month or
every three months, depending on the refill schedule. TRICARE beneficiaries
would retain the $5 monthly co-pay for generic drugs under both the House bill
and administration's proposal.

Obama will veto the $643 billion bill if it reaches him, according to a
statement from the White House. The Senate's version of the authorization
legislation, including the provisions related to TRICARE, likely will be
different from the House version.

"The administration is very disappointed that the committee did not support the
proposed TRICARE fee increases and included Section 718, which, while supporting
some fee increases, caps them at levels below those allowed under current law
and below the requested authorization. If Section 718 remains in the bill, it
would only provide five year savings of $2.6 billion," the White House said in a

Like most federal agencies, Defense is under pressure to cut costs and
streamline its operations. The bill the House approved is $3.7 billion more than
Obama's 2013 request, which has put lawmakers and administration officials at
odds over where and how to make budget cuts.

The bill also includes an amendment offered by Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., that
expands protections under the Servicemembers Civil Service Relief Act to those
personnel who are part of a contingency operation, surviving spouses of military
personnel and totally disabled veterans. The law protects service members from
improper home foreclosures, evictions and other negative financial consequences
resulting from military service. Cummings' amendment also increases the length
of time for foreclosure proceedings and fines for violations of the law.

The Senate Armed Services Committee plans to mark up its version of the 2013
Defense authorization bill next week.



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