U.S. Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) today announced that he secured language requiring the Pentagon to detail and address upcoming changes to TRICARE Prime in this year's defense authorization bill. The plan is based off legislation he, Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.), and Rep. Mark Amodei (R-Nev.) introduced earlier this month. It requires the Pentagon to assess the increased cost and overall impact that TRICARE changes will have on military retirees and their families, and, within 90 days, inform Congress of its plan to provide them with a smooth transition.
"Military retirees and their families in Oregon deserve answers from the Pentagon on upcoming changes to their health plan. If the Pentagon won't do that on its own, my colleagues and I in Congress will ensure they do. This bipartisan proposal will help eliminate confusion for affected military retirees by requiring the Pentagon to assess the impact these changes will have on them and help them transition into their new health plan," Rep. Walden said.
"My colleagues Rep. Bonamici, Rep. Amodei, and I worked with bipartisan defense leaders in the House to include this common-sense plan in the final agreement. I look forward to Congress swiftly passing the measure this week, and for the President to sign it before the end of the year. The sooner that happens, the sooner our heroes will get answers about their health care. They served our nation in uniform and deserve the very best health care we can provide them," Rep. Walden said.
Rep. Walden met with House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) recently to discuss the impact these TRICARE changes could have on military retirees in Oregon and to secure his support for including a plan to assist them in the final defense compromise. He was also appointed to be a negotiator on the final bill on behalf of the House.
TRICARE Prime is available to thousands of military retirees along the I-5 corridor in Oregon, including about 2,500 military retirees in southern Oregon. Many military retirees have told Rep. Walden that they prefer their current plan and are concerned with the upcoming changes.
In October, Rep. Walden heard reports that TRICARE was planning to drop the Prime option for most TRICARE beneficiaries in Oregon. He wrote to the Pentagon official in charge of health care, Dr. Jonathan Woodson, to express his deep concerns with the plan, and to urge Dr. Woodson to announce the planned changes immediately. The entire Oregon delegation followed up with a letter the following week. So far, Dr. Woodson's office has not responded to either letter