June 19, 2015
military's top doctors told lawmakers they do not support proposals to
privatize TRICARE. In Congressional testimony, senior military medical
leaders addressed health care reforms recommended by the Military
Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission (MCRMC). The
report, released earlier this year, recommended privatizing TRICARE and
creating a new Joint Readiness Command.
Although the surgeons general all expressed appreciation for
the time and effort put forward by the MCRMC, they were unanimous in
rejecting the TRICARE privatization proposal. They cited several reasons
for rejecting the proposal, including increased costs and the negative
impact to readiness training.
Under the MCRMC proposal, known as TRICARE Choice, millions
of TRICARE beneficiaries would move to commercial, private sector health
plans. The plans, administered by the Office of Personnel Management,
would be similar to those offered to federal civilians. According to the
MCRMC, TRICARE Choice would give servicemembers and their families more
choices in health care coverage. However, the commission says that
military families would pay up to four times more in health care costs.
According to Army Surgeon General Patricia Horoho, TRICARE
Choice "would negatively impact the readiness of our entire health care
team and present financial challenges for active duty families and
Having TRICARE compete with the private sector "would drive
up administrative costs and significantly detract from the operational
mission of our medical facilities," said Air Force Surgeon General Mark
"It is critical to understand that our direct health care
system connects with the battlefield and exists to provide health
readiness to our soldiers and their families," said Horoho. "This is
what separates us from the civilian health care system."
This message echoes what MOAA President, VADM Norb Ryan, USN
(Ret) told lawmakers in February. Ryan said that problems with TRICARE
"can be addressed in a systemic manner without resorting to its
The surgeons general also rejected the creation of a new
Joint Readiness Command, saying that current and existing reforms are
providing the desired changes. The surgeons general said the recent
establishment of the Defense Health Agency (DHA) aims to standardize
common or shared services between the three military medical commands,
such as a joint Health Information and Technology service.
MOAA agrees, and has consistently said that the largest
barrier to an efficient and highly reliable health care organization is
the three-service system. Instead of creating a far-reaching command
tasked with handling the entire scope of joint readiness, MOAA suggests
building upon the current DHA structure and establishing a unified
medical command with a single budget authority, one that can reduce
redundancies and produce cost savings.
MOAA appreciates the time Congress is taking to analyze the
MCMRC health care proposals before taking action, and supports
initiatives that strengthen TRICARE for beneficiaries and sustains
military medical readiness.
At the conclusion of the testimony,
Rep. Joe Heck (R-Nev.) emphasized Congress's desire to improve TRICARE,
saying they "look forward to continuing to work … to make TRICARE the
premier health care provider in the nation."