A bipartisan bill would provide medical and dental care for Selected Reserve members at no out-of-pocket cost, bringing their coverage in line with their active duty counterparts.
MOAA supports the Healthcare for Our Troops Act, introduced May 25 by Reps. Trent Kelly (R-Miss.) and Andy Kim (D-N.J.), because the health of Selected Reserve servicemembers is a readiness issue.
The enhanced coverage would be for Selected Reserve servicemembers only. Their dependents still would be eligible to purchase premium-based TRICARE Reserve Select.
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The bill addresses one of the top goals of National Guard Bureau Chief Gen. Daniel Hokanson.
“Among my most pressing concerns are premium-free health care for every Guardsman who serves in uniform,” Hokanson said in his opening statement at the May 4 House Defense Appropriations hearing. He reiterated this priority at the Senate Defense Appropriations hearing May 18.
The Healthcare for Our Troops Act would provide zero out-of-pocket cost medical and dental care for Reserve Component members eligible for TRICARE Reserve Select (TRS) by eliminating monthly TRS premiums and cost sharing for covered services. The bill also would require a study on eliminating annual physicals during drill and replacing them with forms to be completed by civilian providers to assess medical readiness.
“The health of National Guard and Reserve members is a readiness issue,” said MOAA President and CEO Lt. Gen. Dana T. Atkins, USAF (Ret). “For the past year, our nation has relied on the Reserve Component to assist with responses to wildfires, natural disasters, civil disturbances, the COVID-19 pandemic, and global operations. Yet, they lack the health care provided to their active duty counterparts. MOAA strongly supports legislation that would provide Reserve Component members with health and dental care at no cost to maintain their medical readiness. We thank Congressman Trent Kelly and Congressman Andy Kim for their work on this important issue.”
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TRS coverage with no out-of-pocket costs would provide continuity of care for injuries and illnesses rather than cycling reservists between health care providers based on duty status. It would also be a recruiting and retention tool for the Reserve Component, but “free” family member coverage will remain a unique benefit for active duty servicemembers.
Perhaps most importantly, it would provide affordable health care for the approximately 130,000 Selected Reserve servicemembers who don’t have private health insurance.
The bill also addresses two other long-standing MOAA goals for Reserve Component health care:
- It would fix the parity gap for Reserve Component “gray area” retirees who receive early retirement pay due to deployment credits but don’t currently get TRICARE by making them eligible for TRICARE upon receipt of retirement pay.
- It would extend TRICARE eligibility to servicemembers who are also federal employees (and eligible for the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, or FEHBP). This fix was part of the FY 2020 National Defense Authorization Act but would not take effect under that law until Jan. 1, 2030 – the Healthcare for Our Troops Act would accelerate implementation of that fix.
In press releases accompanying the introduction of the Healthcare for Our Troops Act, the co-leads explained why expanding TRICARE to the Reserve component is so important.
“Americans who wear the uniform and protect our nation should not be without healthcare. It’s that simple,” said Kim. “We owe our Reservists and National Guard so much, and this bill fulfills a basic bipartisan promise: that we will be there for them as they are there for us every day to keep our country safe.”
Kelly, who has spent 35 years in the Mississippi Army National Guard as a combat engineer and is currently serving as a major general, said recent nonstop deployments, pandemic relief missions, and protecting the capital amounted to “unprecedented use of our military.”
“Current bureaucratic policies prevent some of our service members from having the same healthcare benefits as their counterparts on active-duty,” he added. “Providing health care for all service members is a readiness issue that is easily fixed. Our Guardsmen and Reservists deserve to have access to preventive and routine healthcare. The Healthcare for our Troops Act ensures that no military member will have to worry about paying for medical bills.”
MOAA appreciates the efforts of these lawmakers to address this important issue. Please join us in advocating to fix to the Selected Reserve coverage gap: Contact your lawmakers today to tell them you support this important legislation.
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