MOAA’s Government Relations team expressed concern to senior Army leaders during a recent Washington, D.C., forum regarding cuts to TRICARE and the military health system, including potential negative impacts on readiness and recruiting.
The leaders took part in an Oct. 11 Army Senior Leaders’ Town Hall during the annual meeting of the Association of the U.S. Army (AUSA). The town hall featuring Secretary of the Army Christine Wormuth, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Randy George, and Sgt. Maj. of the Army Michael Weimer, came at the conclusion of the event’s Family Forums and allowed the top officials to offer perspectives and field audience questions on topics such as housing, child care, spouse employment and health care.
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The importance of health care to military families was underscored by results from instant digital polls held during the event. When asked, “Where do you think the Army should prioritize its quality of life efforts in future years?” the No. 1 response from attendees was health care.
In response to MOAA’s concerns about TRICARE cuts, the Defense Health Agency (DHA) acknowledged congressionally-directed reforms have resulted in significant changes to TRICARE and the direct care system of military hospitals and clinics. DHA is working to hire more military treatment facility (MTF) providers and address post-COVID appointment shortages in the TRICARE network.
Filling TRICARE Gaps
Army senior leaders reported that while they need to remain vigilant and work to shore up the military health system, their data shows TRICARE is still very competitive with private sector health care coverage.
While civilians may have much higher out-of-pocket costs for their health care, gaps between commercial plans and TRICARE continue to exist and are growing – provider/appointment availability, the TRICARE Young Adult coverage gap, and lack of coverage for chiropractic care, to name just a few.
Congress and DoD leaders also must consider the importance of fulfilling obligations to those who have served. TRICARE was a key component of the compensation and benefits package that sustained the all-volunteer force during two decades of war – yet, just as the post-9/11 generation transitions to military retirement, the TRICARE benefit they count on is being whittled away through fee increases, shrinking provider networks, and failure to keep up with evolving technologies, treatment protocols, and benchmarks set by commercial plans.
MOAA understands the Defense Health Program budget is under immense pressure, but Congress and DoD must ensure military health care is funded to maintain readiness and fulfill commitments to servicemembers and retirees, as well as their families and survivors. The small percentage of citizens who are responsible for 100% of our national defense have earned and deserve a high-quality health care benefit.
Fulfilling commitments to servicemembers and retirees is not just a national obligation – it’s essential to recruiting the all-volunteer force. Slashing benefits after they have been earned poses a risk to recruiting as key influencers from the post-9/11 and previous generations become disillusioned and less likely to recommend military service.
MOAA will continue to take these messages to DoD leadership and Congress as we move forward with our work to preserve the military health care benefit.
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