A recent headline in USA Today’s editorial section reads, “Our view: Military’s TRICARE Benefits are Too Sweet a Deal.” [I’ll let you pause on that thought for moment] Of course they come to this conclusion with the help of Defense Secretary Gates’ statements like, TRICARE is “eating the DoD alive.”
Gates has been seeking to reduce the cost of military compensation since he took the reins at DoD during the latter Bush years, so it is no surprise that the national media would begin to respond as the USA Today editor’s have. But to call it “too sweet of a deal” may not set well with most military retirees.
The editorial concedes that health insurance for military retirees is “meant to be inexpensive, as part of the compensation for servicemembers’ sacrifice.” But, USA Today tells readers, “The issue is how generous taxpayers should be in giving military retirees insurance that covers treatment by civilian hospitals and doctors.”
The recently passed House defense budget includes a TRICARE Prime premium increase, which if passed by the Senate, would boost the annual enrollment fee to $520. USA Today says that the proposed TRICARE fee increases “don’t go far enough.”
Most retirees understand that a fee increase for TRICARE Prime is needed to sustain the program. The discussion has most recently centered how much of an increase and to which health care price index TRICARE Prime premiums should be tied.
The article asks readers to compare TRICARE premiums to those in the civilian world where “the average worker with employer-provided insurance pays about $4,000 a year for a family plan.” Anyone with any military experience would argue that the comparison is hardly fair, considering the level of sacrifice and hardship most retirees endure to make it through 20 years in the military.
In the opposing view (also posted on USA Today), Norb Ryan, President of the Military Officers Association of America, wrote, “Those pushing much bigger increases to make the military package more like civilians’ ignore the radical differences between civilian and military working conditions.”
I am sure most of our readers are wondering how the USA Today feels about the Congressional Health Care Plan or Medicaid and Medicare for that matter.