During an Armed Services Committee hearing, Senator Jim Webb, Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Personnel Subcommittee, today said that the American people need to understand what the proposed TRICARE changes look like "from the experiences of someone who has spent a career in the military."
"All of this boils down to what a soldier or Marine or sailor or someone in the Air Force can see about what happened to the people who went before them -- how they were treated after they left the uniform," said Senator Webb. "I grew up in the Marine Corps tradition and no Marine is ever left behind, and I feel just as strongly about the commitment that we have made to lifetime medical care for the people who have served.
"We know we have a problem with medical care. It is a national problem.... It is not simply a DoD problem," said Senator Webb. "I do not believe that we should allow ourselves to characterize the commitment that we have made as a throw-away matter as we try to balance out other issues. How we take care of these people is one of the great litmus tests that people who are serving right now are going to be looking at."
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Referring to the above chart, Senator Webb continued, "This is the line that you are seeing right now before we make any changes. When you are on active duty your medical care is completely taken care of. When you retire, and up to the age of 65--we just picked TRICARE Standard here but there are other options--it is about $300 a year. When you hit 65, you go on Medicare B. You have no choice. If you want TRICARE For Life, you go on Medicare B, and we are going to put a fee on top of that. Medicare B is something everybody in this country gets if they are going to pay into it. But it is something that you have to get if you want to keep your TRICARE. And it is not simply something that was given to you because of your service.
"Medicare B is broken down in fees based on your income. If you are a retired E-7 [enlisted pay grade E-7] with a spouse, you are going to go to almost $2,400 a year before we even start talking about these other TRICARE fees. If you are someone who is in the income level of people who are up here, or considerably less, you are going to go to $7,600 a year on your Medicare B before we even start talking about these fees.
"I think there's a great misperception up here about what happens to people at the time when their income is probably at the lowest in their career in their retirement years and when their physical and medical vulnerabilities are probably at the highest," said Senator Webb.
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