MOAA’s 2020 Summer Storm: Will DoD Health Care Stay Afloat?

MOAA’s 2020 Summer Storm: Will DoD Health Care Stay Afloat?
An operating room team performs surgery on a retired Army officer at Wilford Hall Ambulatory Surgical Center, Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas. (Photo by Tech. Sgt. Katherine Spessa/Air Force)

Representatives in the House have already departed for their summer break, and the Senate is not far behind, leaving at the end of this week. This signals the start of the district and state work period – your opportunity to engage your legislators at home.

 

This summer’s effort follows a very successful Virtual Storm campaign – one that garnered extensive House support for preserving your military health care benefit. Now is the time for an all-hands effort to contact all 100 senators and secure that same support. 

 

[SUMMER STORM 2020: Contact Your Senator | Issue Paper | More Resources]

 

DoD Health Care Under Protracted Attacks

There is no way to sugarcoat this issue: Service-earned health care benefits continue to be the target of cost savings. Some recent examples:

  • The FY 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) directed DoD to find efficiencies in health care with an emphasis on readiness of the forces. MOAA agrees and supports military health system (MHS) reforms aimed at increasing military medical provider readiness, achieving efficiencies, and improving the patient experience, but our top priority is protecting access to care. Inefficiencies do exist and need to be rectified, and DoD leaders have assured such rectifications would not diminish access to quality care. However, efforts to address inefficiencies through restructuring or closing nearly 50 military treatment facilities were initiated without adequate assessment of the second- and third-order of effects on beneficiaries and their health – specifically, local civilian medical capacity or willingness to take on TRICARE patients.

  • The 2020 president’s budget, informed by requests from DoD, projected elimination of nearly 18,000 military medical billets, with plans to realign those positions to increase lethality of the forces as called for in the 2018 National Defense Strategy. This effort, on top of MTF restructuring and closures, further strays from the commitment of ensuring access to quality health care.

  • The 2020 COVID-19 global pandemic exacerbates the magnitude of unknowns and potentially accelerates further erosion of service-earned health care.

 

MOAA wants Congress to halt MTF restructuring and medical billet cuts, and to require additional reporting and congressional oversight to protect beneficiary access to care. So far, MOAA successfully garnered significant support from the House through May’s Virtual Storm, resulting in language in the defense bill reported out of the House of Representatives (Sections 715 and 716).

 

This language delays any actions by DoD for one year with the analysis and oversight requirements we seek. An independent Government Accountability Office (GAO) report substantiates our position.

 

MOAA appreciates the House passing these provisions and sending this language to the conference committee.

 

The Senate, however, remains silent on this issue. It is imperative to focus our advocacy on Senate offices to generate support for provisions in the House version of the bill. We must get the House provisions to the conference, and get Senate support to ensure those provisions make it into the final version of the NDAA, signed by the president.

 

[TAKE ACTION: Halt MTF Restructuring and Billet Reductions]

 

This Summer Storm can consist of personal or virtual visits, letters, emails, and/or phone calls. Additionally, we encourage you to seek media attention highlighting those senators who are taking visits or meeting in public forums or town halls – and please share any pictures or stories with us at legis@moaa.org. Also, wherever possible, include family and friends.

 

There are two ways you can get involved in this Summer Storm:

  1. Access our supporting materials at moaa.org/SummerStorm and work individually, or
  2. Contact your local MOAA chapter to join any efforts they may have underway to help grow a louder voice within your state. To find your nearest MOAA chapter, click here.

 

Whichever method you choose, be sure to share your successes on social media, using the hashtag #MOAASummerStorm.

 

By working together and leveraging the success from the Virtual Storm in May, we can make a measurable impact this summer to ensure the FY 2021 NDAA puts a halt to MTF restructuring and medical billet reductions. It is imperative DoD assesses the impacts of COVID-19, along with the whole of government, if they are to keep with their assurances that beneficiaries will maintain access to the quality health care they earned through their service and sacrifice.

 

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About the Author

Col. Dan Merry, USAF (Ret)
Col. Dan Merry, USAF (Ret)

Merry earned his commission in 1989 through AFROTC and commanded DoD’s Port Mortuary at Dover AFB, Del. He has served in multiple overseas conflicts since the 1990s and has served as the VP of government relations since August 2016.