Tricare Changes, New Fees Rejected by Senate Committee
By Patricia Kime, Staff writer
1:53 p.m. EDT May 15, 2015
The Senate Armed Services Committee has rejected the Defense Department's
proposal to overhaul Tricare, likely giving military families, retirees and
their families a reprieve from major changes to their health care coverage for
at least another year.
In its draft version of the 2016 defense authorization bill, committee members
decided against making sweeping changes to Tricare, including new fees for most
retirees and abolishing the current structure in favor of a consolidated plan
that divided programs into managed and network care, and non-network care.
Instead, the committee bill would make some small adjustments to Tricare
pharmacy fees, allow Tricare beneficiaries up to four urgent care visits per
year without the need for pre-authorization, and require the Pentagon to publish
information about access to care and provide numerous reports on the status of
its health facilities and services.
The armed services committee's personnel panel initially had considered
including the DoD proposals, but the full committee did not go along with the
changes, which would have introduced fees for some beneficiaries to use
emergency rooms, military treatment facilities and the Tricare for Life program.
Pentagon budget planners had argued that the new fee structure is needed to curb
the rising costs of caring for the nation's military population, especially
aging retirees and their families who, officials say, pay roughly 8 percent of
their health care costs out of pocket today, compared to about 28 percent when
Tricare was introduced years ago.
A blue-ribbon commission in January made a recommendation to move all
non-active-duty Tricare beneficiaries to commercial-based health plans. Some
senators have expressed interest in that proposal, but it has been rejected by
the White House, and House lawmakers said they could not incorporate the
proposal into their draft defense bill until they had thoroughly studied it.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee,
called the proposed legislation a "reform bill."
He said the $613 billion bill, which includes $32.3 billion for the defense
health program, is "not about how much we added or subtracted."
"We've got to reform, otherwise we will lose whatever confidence remains among
taxpayers that we are spending their defense taxpayer dollars wisely," McCain
The full Senate still must approve the proposed bill. Differences between the
Senate and House versions of the legislation will be reconciled in a conference
committee later this year.
Like the Senate committee's bill, the House version of the legislation, which
was approved by that full chamber Friday on a 269-151 vote, included few
alterations to Tricare.
SOURCE: MilitaryTimes article @
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