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Public Statements

Department of Defense Appropriations Act, 2014

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Ms. HANABUSA. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

In the President's budget the past 2 years, there has been a push to phase in substantial TRICARE fee increases. Even the TRICARE For Life program, the promise of life-long health care many were given when they first joined the military, has been the subject of proposed enrollment fees.

The House Armed Services Committee, of which I am a member, and other Congressional defense committees, have declined to grant the authority for these fee increases.

My amendment would do nothing more than ensure that the funds in this act are not made available to implement any new enrollment fees in the TRICARE For Life program.

Year after year, we hear from the Department of Defense that health care costs of our soldiers and veterans are spiraling out of control and that TRICARE is crippling the DOD with its rise in costs. Yet, Mr. Chairman, for the past 2 fiscal years, the Pentagon has found a way to reprogram hundreds of millions of dollars from defense health accounts to higher priorities. These reprogramming actions totaled $708 million last year in 2012 and $500 million in the prior year in 2011.

DOD has explained that the surplus was due to ``uncertainty about medical inflation and health care use, and the impact of continual benefit changes and efficiency initiatives.'' If there is uncertainty about costs, the assertion cannot be made that added fees are necessary for even our most senior veterans.

DOD's own documents prove military health care costs are not exploding. The combined personnel and health care costs are less than one-third of DOD's budget and the same as they've been for 30 years. The overestimation of cost growth that has resulted in hundreds of millions of dollars being reprogrammed by DOD the past 2 years is proof that costs are not growing as much as anticipated. In fact, they are not growing at all.

The relatively low cost of health care and strong benefits are the foundational elements and they are necessary not just to recruit, but also to sustain an all-volunteer force. Significant cuts to the critical incentive packages that sustain a top-quality career force will undermine long-term retention and readiness.

I ask my colleagues to vote for this amendment and uphold our commitment to the brave men and women of our armed services, as well as the millions of veterans in need of health care today. Again, I reemphasize this amendment is to prohibit funds to be used to add any enrollment fees to the TRICARE For Life program.

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Ms. HANABUSA. Mr. Chairman, I appreciate the comments of the ranking member, however, the facts are as stated: DOD has reprogrammed $708 million last year alone and $500 million in the prior year. These have been from the health accounts.

In addition to that, we must look at the fact that the DOD budget as to personnel and health costs are less than one-third of the DOD budget, and that has been a consistent percentage for the past 30 years.

The health care fund has been the one that has been taking the hit every time. It has been the bogeyman to say that is where we are going to have to cut and that is what is rising the costs out of control, it is spiraling out of control. But that is, in fact, not true.

I think that to threaten health care or to not give our men and women in uniform, and the veterans, in particular, the security with which they joined the military for--these are one of the benefits they looked for--by not being able to ensure them that, especially health care, is the worst that we can do. When we don't have the evidence that this is where we should cut, we should not cut and add any additional enrollment fees.

As I stated, this amendment is to prevent any funds to be used to increase any enrollment fees for the TRICARE For Life.

I yield back the balance of my time.

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