Higher TRICARE Fees Are In Store

July 7, 2017

The Senate Armed Services Committee has yet to release its complete version of the 2018 defense authorization bill after markup. The lack of transparency in the hearing process leaves us wondering what controversial provisions might be included to prompt such secrecy. However, if “past is prologue,” we do have a few clues as to which way the wind will blow in the Senate - and you can expect higher TRICARE fees. In most cases, health care costs will be much higher and probably more in line with DoD's recent budget proposal.

With regard to higher TRICARE fees, pharmacy copayments are once again in the crosshairs of the budget writers. These provide an especially ripe target for increases, because the pharmacy benefit consists of mandatory spending for beneficiaries over the age of 65. The savings resulting from these potential fee hikes can then be used to fund other accounts and programs, including measures like the Special Survivor Indemnity Allowance (SSIA) to remedy  the SBP/DIC Widows Tax, which offsets a military survivor's monthly Survivor Benefit Plan annuity by any Dependency and Indemnity Compensation they receive. MOAA has a long-standing record of advocating for a permanent fix for the widow's tax/SSIA situation. However, taxing beneficiaries' earned benefits is not the way to fix it. Keep in mind, many of those affected by the Widows Tax also use the pharmacy benefit. 

TRICARE enrollment fees, as well as other fees, most likely will get hit with hikes, too. DoD is looking for ways, in their words, to “plow savings back into readiness.” Raising fees by repealing the grandfathering clause for TRICARE fees contained in last year's law which shielded currently serving members from new fees, as is currently proposed by the DoD, is one way they aim to supplement readiness or other unspecified projects. 

“We do not think raising TRICARE fees through the repeal of last year's grandfathering, which is now law, is in any way fair to beneficiaries,” says Capt. Kathy Beasley, USN (Ret), MOAA's Government Relations Director for Health Affairs. “The House saw fit to maintain the existing grandfathered fee structure and to maintain focus on the implementation of current TRICARE reform efforts. MOAA strongly agrees with the House.”

 

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