Today, U.S. Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ) introduced legislation that would place reasonable and affordable caps on health insurance enrollment fees, deductibles, and pharmacy co-payments for military retirees enrolled in the Department of Defense's TRICARE system. The bill would protect the nine million beneficiaries in the military health care system, particularly military retirees, from unfair insurance fee hikes.
"This bill would give veterans on TRICARE greater assurances that their costs will not spiral out of control beyond their means to pay for them. Military retirees who rely on fixed incomes usually don't have the ability to go out and find new jobs to pay for increased TRICARE costs. This effort will bring more predictability to help them budget for their health care needs," Rubio said.
"A tough fiscal climate is no excuse to balance the budget on the backs of our nation's military retirees and their families," said Lautenberg, an Army veteran. "Those Americans who serve in our military do so much to protect us--the least we can do is protect them against excessive health care costs. Our bill will protect veterans from unfair health care fee hikes and help guarantee that health services are affordable for those who served and sacrificed to keep our country safe."
The Lautenberg-Rubio "Military Health Care Protection Act of 2012" would establish that the percentage of increase in certain military health care fees in any given year cannot exceed the percentage of increase in military retired pay. This would protect military retirees, surviving spouses, and their families from undue financial burden. The bill is supported by 21 military and veteran groups, including: Military Officers Association of America (MOAA), Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), American Legion, Fleet Reserve Association, and the National Military Family Association (NMFA). A copy of the bill can be found here.
The Pentagon's budget request for Fiscal Year 2013 shifts billions in costs to TRICARE beneficiaries over 10 years by increasing certain TRICARE fees as well as establishing new fees. Similar fee increases were also requested under the Bush Administration in Fiscal Years 2007, 2008, and 2009. Specifically, the Fiscal Year 2013 budget request seeks to:
* Significantly raise annual health care fees for retired families;
* Establish new enrollment fees for beneficiaries under certain TRICARE plans;
* More than double certain pharmacy copays for all TRICARE beneficiaries; and
* Tie future increases to a health cost index that will rapidly increase costs (est. 6.5% per year annual growth).
"We're grateful for Sen. Lautenberg and Sen. Rubio's leadership in introducing this bill to protect uniformed services beneficiaries from dramatic fee increases for their military TRICARE coverage," said Vice Admiral Norb Ryan, Jr. (USN-Ret), President of the Military Officers Association of America. "Repeated proposals to raise their healthcare fees by up to $2,000 a year have been extremely unsettling to the military community. Sen. Lautenberg and Sen. Rubio's bill would restore a much-needed sense of stability for this core career retention incentive."
The legislation introduced today builds on language approved by Congress in the FY 2012 National Defense Authorization Act restricting some TRICARE fee increases. It also includes similar provisions to legislation that Senator Lautenberg introduced in the 109th and 110th Congresses. Senator Lautenberg also worked successfully to prohibit TRICARE fee increases in Fiscal Years 2007, 2008, and 2009 by introducing amendments to Defense Authorization bills that froze costs.