MOAA’s work to make mental health care more affordable for TRICARE beneficiaries recently received a boost from The Military Coalition (TMC), a group of military and veterans service organizations representing nearly 5.5 million members combined.
The group sent a letter in support of the Stop Copay Overpay Act (H.R. 4824), which would reduce TRICARE copays for mental health visits, to the bill’s original co-sponsors: Reps. Chrissy Houlahan (D-Pa.) and Rep. Guy Reschenthaler (R-Pa.).
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MOAA co-chairs TMC and many of its committees, including the health care committee.
“Stress and uncertainty related to COVID-19 have led to surging demand for mental health services,” TMC’s letter states. “Military families also face additional challenges as highlighted by the recent short notice deployment of thousands of service members to Europe. The need for mental and behavioral health care is greater than ever in the military community. We thank you for introducing this important legislation, which will decrease the cost barrier and make it easier for service members and families to access needed care.”
The letter builds on progress MOAA members made by taking this issue to Capitol Hill as part of the spring Advocacy in Action campaign. Those efforts increased awareness of this critical issue, grew co-sponsorship of the House bill (23 co-sponsors as of June 15), and generated Senate office interest in introducing a companion.
Reducing beneficiary copays does not impact reimbursement to mental health providers – it shifts more of the cost back to DoD. Any bill that increases TRICARE spending faces a significant hurdle in the Senate thanks to the chamber’s pay-as-you-go, or PAYGO, rule which generally requires any legislation estimated to increase direct spending to have an offset so it does not increase the budget deficit.
The Stop Copay Overpay Act has widespread support in concept, but many member offices have expressed concerns about how the direct spending impacts might be addressed. They fear other TRICARE fees will be raised to offset the mental health copay reduction – a move they know their constituents oppose based on feedback they’ve received following past TRICARE fee increases.
MOAA expressly opposes any solution that would increase TRICARE fees or reduce any other uniformed service benefit to fund improvements to TRICARE, but we remain concerned about the impact on access to care. We continue to build support for H.R. 4824 by highlighting how TRICARE mental health copays are out of step with commercial plans, impede DoD efforts to reduce stigma, and present a barrier to access for uniformed servicemembers, retirees and their families (including medically retired wounded warriors), and survivors.
Please join us by contacting your elected officials to express support for H.R. 4824.
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