Leaders of the House and Senate Armed Services committees are meeting this month to hash out the final version of the Fiscal Year 2019 National Defense Authorization Act.
Among the provisions is a concerning one from the Senate that has a potential to raise TRICARE fees, thereby eroding this important earned benefit.
In a letter to the committee leaders, MOAA President and CEO, Lt. Gen. Dana T. Atkins, USAF (Ret.), explains why these increases are unfair and should be eliminated from the NDAA.
June 29, 2018
Dear Messrs. Chairmen and Ranking Members,
On behalf of the 350,000 members of the Military Officers Association of America, I wanted to thank you for the strong leadership and support you and your committees have provided in the past for our military personnel, retirees, veterans and their families. This same commitment is again visible in the recently passed House and Senate versions of the FY2019 National Defense Authorization Act.
I greatly appreciate in particular, your committee's commitment and efforts to protect the interests and quality of life for military personnel and their families by supporting the 2.6% pay raise at ECI and maintaining current calculations for basic allowance for housing.
We also strongly support your further commitment to not only sustain, but to increase military personnel strengths in both the active and reserve components of the services in order to meet national security strategy requirements and dwell-time needs as our forces prepare for and respond to security challenges around the globe.
As you now move forward in your deliberations to reconcile the differences between the House and Senate passed versions in conference, I wanted to address an area of concern regarding the potential raising of TRICARE fees.
We strongly disagree with Section 701 in the Senate version of the NDAA. This provision eliminates the grandfathering for beneficiaries enrolled in TRICARE prior to January 1, 2018 with the intent to establish a single co-payment structure for all beneficiaries to "correct an inequity." This provision not only disregards the intent of the FY17 NDAA, which fully appreciated the difference between the many years of service as compared with new entrants, it patently results in yet another round of significant increases on that select population-affecting those who served a full military career and endured increases last year when the Defense Health Agency unilaterally implemented changes to the fee tables resulting in those net increases.
These new out of pocket cost increases, if approved, would be achieved through higher enrollment fees, new non-network deductibles, higher catastrophic caps and pharmacy fee increases-all of which significantly erode the military health care.
It is also apparent to us additional fees collected are not being used to maintain or improve the military health care system - but are instead being used to fund readiness or other un-specified programs.
For these reasons, and for the sake of all those current beneficiaries who have faithfully served all of us, I respectfully ask you to not include section 701 in the final bill and to honor Congress' earlier commitment to our service members.
The demands on your time come from many angles so I am personally appreciative of your consideration of these concerns which are of great importance to our membership and those whom we serve. Thank you for your continued support of our military personnel, retirees, veterans and their families. We look forward to continuing to work with you.
Dana T. Atkins