TRICARE Young Adult Parity Fight Continues After NDAA Setback

TRICARE Young Adult Parity Fight Continues After NDAA Setback
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Legislation that would expand TRICARE eligibility to young adult dependents up to age 26 to bring TRICARE in line with commercial plans did not make it into the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) version of the FY 2022 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

 

Rep. Elaine Luria (D-Va.) introduced H.R. 475, the Health Care Fairness for Military Families Act, as an amendment during the Sept. 1 HASC full committee markup but immediately withdrew it, acknowledging it would be ruled out of order for failure to address budgetary impacts. This action gave the opportunity to underscore the importance of the bill to military families and position it for success next year.

 

“I understand there will be a point of order raised against this amendment because of its budgetary impact, and I do intend to withdraw it, but this issue is too important not to raise during this committee’s single legislative markup for the year,” she said. “Our military families deserve the same health care benefits as civilians, and I will keep fighting for them.”

 

The bill’s co-lead, Rep. Michael Waltz (R-Fla.) added, “I’m proud to support Ms. Luria in this amendment. I look forward to working with the committee to find the funds available in the future. This is a critical, critical retention issue for our servicemembers going forward.”

 

[RELATED: MOAA Members Share Their TRICARE Pharmacy Challenges]

 

We appreciate MOAA member efforts on TRICARE Young Adult as part of our Advocacy in Action campaign. While we are disappointed the bill did not make it into the HASC mark, we realize some legislation – particularly bills that impact direct spending – take multiple years or congressional sessions to achieve.

 

While MOAA strongly supports addressing TRICARE parity issues, we will oppose any effort to fund these fixes by increasing out-of-pocket costs for beneficiaries or cutting other military/veterans programs. Military families and retirees should not be tapped to fund parity fixes to the military health care benefit.

 

Fixing the TRICARE young adult parity gap to ensure military kids have the same health care protections as their civilian peers as they transition to adulthood remains a top priority for MOAA, and we look forward to continuing our work on this issue next year.

 

After the HASC full committee markup, MOAA issued the following statement together with our friends at the National Military Family Association, who have been our partners in working this issue for military families:

 

Most Americans get their healthcare through work – and military families are no different, earning their health care benefit through years of service. And while they make many sacrifices to do so, the quality of their health care coverage shouldn’t be among them. TRICARE, the military health care program, should be on par or better than coverage available through commercial plans.
 
But TRICARE falls short in important ways – and Congress just missed an opportunity to fix that.
 
The Military Officers Association of America (MOAA) and the National Military Family Association (NMFA) are disappointed that the House Armed Services Committee failed to include a key piece of legislation in the FY 2022 National Defense Authorization Act. H.R. 475, the Health Care Fairness for Military Families Act, would have brought TRICARE in line with commercial insurance plans by automatically covering young adult dependents up to age 26 under their parents’ plan.
 
Military families deserve the same health care protections as their civilian counterparts; it is disheartening that Congress is allowing this inequity to continue.
 
For more than a decade, commercial insurance plans have been required to cover beneficiaries’ young adult dependents up to age 26. As a result, millions of civilian families enjoy the security of knowing their young adult dependents have access to high quality, affordable health care without breaking the bank.
 
Military families do not have that security.
 
Because TRICARE is not required to extend coverage to young adult dependents, military families must purchase a separate, premium-based plan to cover them after they reach age 23 – a clear inequity and a financial burden.
 
“These young adults are the same kids who spent their childhood worried about mom or dad while they were deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan,” said Besa Pinchotti, NMFA Executive Director and CEO. “They served alongside their military parents, changing schools over and over again, leaving friends behind—understanding it’s all part of military life. They deserve the same access to affordable health coverage their civilian friends have.”
 
“It's time to modernize TRICARE eligibility and bring it on par with commercial plans,” added Lt. Gen. Dana Atkins, USAF (Ret). “Congressionally-directed military health system reforms have meant increased costs for many military families. Reform must also include addressing glaring parity gaps to ensure the TRICARE benefit reflects the extraordinary risks and sacrifices associated with military service and remains an effective recruiting and retention tool.”
 
We are grateful for the leadership of Reps. Elaine Luria (D-VA) and Michael Waltz (R-FL) for acting to address this inequity by introducing the Health Care Fairness for Military Families Act. We are also thankful for the more than 70 Members of Congress who signed on to support this legislation. We’re asking Congress to follow their lead and act to end this inequity.
 
Our military kids have served and sacrificed their entire lives. The least we can do is make sure they have the same health care benefits as their civilian friends.

 

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About the Author

Karen Ruedisueli
Karen Ruedisueli

Ruedisueli is MOAA’s Director of Government Relations for Health Affairs and also serves as co-chair of The Military Coalition’s (TMC) Health Care Committee. She spent six years with the National Military Family Association, advocating for families of the uniformed services with a focus on health care and military caregivers.