More National Guard and Reserve members, many of whom have remained on rotational deployments in overseas operations throughout the country’s longest war, may soon have a new choice when it comes to health insurance.
MOAA has long supported opening enrollment of TRICARE Reserve Select to all retired National Guard and Reserve members, and congressional subcommittees now are reviewing legislation that would allow members of the National Guard and Reserve who are federal employees covered under the Federal Employees Health Benefits Plan (FEHBP) to enroll in the TRICARE plan.
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“It’s more choice,” said Capt. Kathy Beasley, USN (Ret), government relations director of health affairs for MOAA. “Guard and Reserve members are more utilized now in the past 17 years than before the war. It’s important to look after them. They’re utilized a lot. They go on and off duty, and that’s a disruption.”
The Tricare Reserve Select program was established in the 2005 National Defense Authorization Act to offer reserve-component members and their families health insurance. However, Guard and Reserve members who are eligible for FEHBP were not allowed to enroll.
Discussions to offer these troops more choice began as the operational tempo increased for National Guard and Reserve units. Last month, more than 3,500 soldiers with the Mississippi and Kansas National Guard returned from a nine-month deployment in support of Operation Spartan Shield – the first time in the past decade that a reserve component that large had been deployed.
The House’s proposed legislation, introduced by Rep. Trent Kelly (R-Miss.), has been referred to the House Armed Services subcommittee on military personnel, while the Senate version, introduced by Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) is in the Senate Armed Services Committee.
The proposed legislation would allow about 113,000 Guard and Reserve members to choose whether to enroll in TRICARE Reserve Select. It would provide a cost savings of about $1.5 billion in discretionary spending over 10 years, according to the Congressional Budget Office, against a $240 million increase in mandatory outlays.Amanda Dolasinski is MOAA’s staff writer. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @AmandaMOAA.