MOAA Supports the FAIR Heroes Act

December 21, 2017

As 2017 draws to a close, MOAA gives thanks for our many partners with whom we work on our advocacy efforts. Our partnership with the Wounded Warrior Project (WWP), for example, has helped us build support for changing the law to benefit young, medically retired veterans who have to pay more for their health insurance because of the severity of their injuries. 

Many of the most severely wounded warriors qualify for both Medicare and for TRICARE. They earn TRICARE upon medical retirement, and if they cannot work for a sustained period of time, they qualify for Medicare before age 65.

An existing law, which should have been changed years ago, prevents these severely wounded warriors from using their TRICARE health benefit. This past month, MOAA, WWP, and others were instrumental in getting bipartisan legislation introduced in both the House and the Senate to increase health care opportunities for disabled veterans. The Fair Access to Insurance for Retired (FAIR) Heroes Act will allow veterans who were medically discharged to choose their health care coverage through Medicare or TRICARE.

However, they are in a catch-22: If they want to pay TRICARE Prime's lower premiums, they must decline Medicare Part B. But if they decline Part B, they lose all access to TRICARE For Life health benefits. Even if the wounded warrior declines Medicare Part B and later wants to reverse this decision, they are subject to a late enrollment penalty of 10 percent a year until they reach age 65. This is on top of already higher Medicare Part B premiums.

The financial impact for these individuals is great - and, keep in mind, most are younger in age, in their 20s and 30s. For example, Medicare Part B premiums total $1,608 annually, whereas TRICARE Prime would be $283 a year (for individuals). At these rates, over the course of 10 years, an injured retiree unable to work is required to pay over $13,000 more than a typical retiree - a significant amount for someone on a fixed income.

This is a confusing system of health insurance coverage for this special group of retirees, many of whom are attempting to navigate the system while living with post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injuries. The FAIR Heroes Act gives them a choice to remain on low-cost TRICARE or stay on Medicare. Many would like to choose an option that best suits them and not be penalized in future years if they choose to opt out of Medicare. 

Community support for this initiative played a pivotal role in recruiting member support - thank you all so much. This is a benchmark moment in a campaign for change that should have been made years ago.



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