Despite a disappointment in the early stages of the FY 2022 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) process, MOAA continues its work to secure zero out-of-pocket cost medical and dental care for National Guard and Reserve members – and we need your help.
The House Armed Services Military Personnel Subcommittee’s NDAA draft, released last week, contains several provisions in support of servicemembers and their families, but no language addressing TRICARE parity issues, including National Guard and Reserve health care.
H.R. 3512, the Healthcare for Our Troops Act, would provide zero out-of-pocket cost medical and dental care for servicemembers eligible for TRICARE Reserve Select (TRS). Their family members would remain eligible to purchase premium-based TRS. While this legislation was not included in the early NDAA markup, MOAA continues to work with the bill’s sponsors to move it forward.
Our nation relies heavily on the reserve component. Last year, more National Guard troops were mobilized than at any time since World War II. The National Guard and Reserve played critical roles in the whole-of-nation response to COVID-19. They also responded to natural disasters, wildfires, and civil unrest, and were deployed overseas to support combatant commanders.
These servicemembers are obligated to maintain their medical and dental health so they are ready when our nation needs them, yet they do not receive a military health care benefit unless activated. Approximately 130,000 reserve component servicemembers don’t have private health insurance, according to officials; H.R. 3512 would ensure these servicemembers have consistent access to affordable care to maintain their medical readiness.
Budgetary concerns have caused similar legislation to be held up in the past and continue to be a barrier today. MOAA has urged Congress to consider that providing affordable health care for these servicemembers is not only essential to our national defense, but it should result in savings in other areas.
Mass medical events on drill weekends are currently necessary to conduct periodic medical assessments of reserve component servicemembers. H.R. 3512 includes a study to assess the feasibility of phasing out these events and replacing them with forms to be completed by civilian providers. Eliminating these events not only would reduce the direct costs associated with staffing screening sites with medical providers and administrative personnel, but it also would address reallocating precious time now spent on these events to mission-essential tasks.
[LIFE/PREMIUM MEMBERS: Read About the National Guard in the August 2021 Issue of Military Officer]
Providing a health care benefit to these servicemembers would also likely result in fewer servicemembers with routine medical issues preventing them from being activated, thus streamlining the call-up process and reducing associated costs.
MOAA realizes finding a “bill payer” is always a challenge. While we strongly support H.R. 3512, MOAA has made it clear we will oppose any attempts to pay for reserve component servicemember health care – not just a benefit, but primarily a readiness issue – by increasing TRICARE costs for other beneficiary segments or decreasing other earned benefits for the uniformed service community. Medical readiness of this group is crucial, but servicemembers and military retirees should not be tapped to pay for it.
We are still in the early stages of the NDAA process and seek your help in building support for the Healthcare for Our Troops Act. Please ask your representative to co-sponsor H.R. 3512.
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