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TRICARE–a budget cutter target

Posted By McQ • [July 26, 2011]

I’m pretty much in line with all the talk of actually cutting the budget.   And yeah, to some, what I’m about to say will be quickly tossed into the “cut everyone else’s bennies but don’t cut mine” bucket and dismissed.

I’m not sure it belongs in that bucket.  But you be the judge.   First the story:

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) wants to cut taxpayer funding for non-military elements of the Defense Department, starting with making retired, uninjured service members pay more for what he described as “extremely low-cost health care for life” for themselves, their spouses and dependents under the Tricare Prime system.

For military retirees eligible for Medicare, he also wants to raise the co-payments that they are charged to be in Tricare for life, the second payer for health care after Medicare. In addition, he wants to increase low fees that Tricare beneficiaries pay for pharmaceuticals purchased at their local drugstores.

Of course you have to be careful with reading this.  This would only apply to “retired, uninjured service members”.   So if you served 28 years, put your life on the line many times but somehow managed not to get injured, shame on you.  Because Sen. Coburn thinks you ought to pay more for a benefit you actually earned.

Let me say something before I get into this too far.   I’m willing to pay some more.   I know TRICARE Prime is a good deal.  It’s supposed to be.  Because I also know that when I signed on the dotted line, I was given to understand that a part of my benefit package (because it sure wasn’t about the huge paycheck I was drawing) would include low cost health coverage for life.   That was the bargain we made, or at least how I and multi-thousands of others understood it.   Apparently, now, it’s time for the “low-cost” promise to be pitched under the bus along with thousands of other political promises:

Former defense secretary Robert M. Gates proposed raising Tricare Prime enrollment fees for single retirees from $230 a year to $260 a year and fees for retiree families from $460 a year to $520 a year. Coburn wants the fees to be much higher and more in line with private-sector health plans.

I guess that’s because what we do is so much like what the private sector does, no?

You know, drive to “work” over bomb laden roads every day.   Walk in the “neighborhood” and dodge sniper bullets and ambushes.  Take up arms and defend the “corporation” from our “enemies” and be willing to take a round in the brain-housing group to do so.  Indulge in those famous and fabulous “three canteen cup” lunches.

Yup, just like our corporate brothers and sisters – so certainly we should pay private-sector health insurance fees even while those supported in the government’s own Medicare and Medicaid don’t.

Nope … just those parasitic retired, uninjured leeches should be required to pay those rates, because, you know, this will help offset the horrible debt the profligate spending Congress has committed too for decades.   And, news flash – Tom Coburn won’t be paying “more” for his Senatorial level health care insurance, trust me. 

Oh, and you’ll love this:

Another comparison he makes is to other federal government workers whose plans are not as cheap. A medical doctor, Coburn told reporters last Monday: “Nobody in the country, as a single person working 20 years for the government, should be able to get health care for $250 a year. Nobody was ever promised that, and nobody should be able to do that.”

Yeah, again, military service is just like that of “other federal government workers” isn’t it?  Instead of a Purple Heart, though, they get the “Order of the Paper Cut, 1st Class”.  I guess their equivalent of a Bronze Star (BSM) for valor is an achievement medal for staying awake longest In the weekly staff meeting.  With the second award you get a NoDoz cluster.   And they even have elite forces who are absolutely comparable to the military – the PowerPoint Rangers Lead the Way!

But remember – no one in the government was promised this stuff – no one.  And you yahoos who managed to endure several deployments in combat zones where you played “You Bet Your Life” daily, then managed to come home “uninjured” and had the temerity to then retire and use your benefits ought to be ashamed of yourselves – because “nobody should be able to do that.”

So how much, you ask, is he talking about?

Instead, he wants to increase the enrollment fee for single retirees to “approximately $2,000 per year and $3,500 for a family.” At the same time he would limit out-of-pocket expenses at $7,500 for those retirees with families. He thinks these changes could save $11.5 billion a year.

His Tricare for life would require retirees to pay up to $550 for half the initial cost not covered by Medicare and then up to $3,025, after which all costs would be paid by Tricare. This change could save $4.3 billion a year.

Coburn wants to reduce the $8 billion annual government share of the cost of drugs that Tricare beneficiaries purchase from their local private retail pharmacies rather than buying them at lower cost by mail order or at military base facilities. Where the price is now $3 for a 30-day supply of a generic drug and $9 for a brand-name from private pharmacies, Coburn would raise that to $15 for generic and $25 for brand names and save some $2.6 billion a year.

So welcome home soldier.  Uncle Sugar and Tom Coburn love you, thank you for your service and once again require you to bend over and grab your ankles.  Apparently your sacrifice for the country hasn’t yet ended.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


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