Proposed 2019 NDAA Erodes Earned Health Care Benefits

The House and Senate have both passed their respective 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) proposals. The Senate's version shows currently serving TRICARE beneficiaries would experience zero to minimal relief on their existing higher cost shares. Even worse, retirees and their families under age 65 are targeted for another round of excessive increases to their TRICARE Prime and TRICARE Select enrollment fees.

These proposed fee increases are set to be implemented just as a large percentage of currently serving members - those who have served their entire careers during wartime - become eligible for retirement. MOAA viewed last year's large fee increases as a break in faith with currently serving families and those who have served full careers - this proposal by the Senate expedites the erosion of the service-earned health care benefit.

These TRICARE fee increases amount to taking real money right off the top of servicemembers' retirements. Most of those servicemembers have endured multiple deployments to war zones.

This Congress has the fewest number of veterans in decades, causing a misunderstanding of what life has been like for these servicemembers and their families for the past 17 years. Reflecting on these members' service might be more appropriate than placing an additional tax on benefits earned through sacrifice.

Let that sink in.

MOAA's key concerns are:

  • The proposal will result in zero to minimal reductions in cost shares for most beneficiaries. Grandfathered Prime retirees are already paying higher copays that match those of new entrants due to the increases which the Defense Health Agency implemented Jan. 1.

  • Unfortunately this proposal does NOT address one of MOAA's objections to the current copayment structure. That is the extraordinarily high copays for outpatient therapies requiring recurring appointments. For example physical/speech/occupational therapy and mental health visits are considered specialty care and are associated with much higher copays. These high costs would run unabated for many beneficiaries and serves as a barrier for beneficiary adherence to treatment plans.
  • The proposal targets retirees under age 65 for steep increases to grandfathered retiree enrollment fees. For example, TRICARE Prime enrollment fees increase 21 percent and TRICARE Select families would confront an unprecedented (and unexpected) fee of $450 for individuals and $900 on families.
  • Creates a new non-network deductible for TRICARE Select retirees. Select retirees would have to pay the first $300 (individual) or $600 (family) in medical expenses when using non-network providers even though at least 15 percent of beneficiaries don't have the option of choosing network providers because TRICARE Select was designed to cover only 85 percent of the beneficiary population. And the existing provider network has not yet reached this contractual requirement.

Last year's TRICARE fee increases were disproportionately high and broke faith with currently serving families and those who have served full careers. The addition of these new Senate-proposed fee increases do nothing but place a more disproportionate burden on military beneficiaries with the sole intent of raising revenues for defense programs unrelated to the costs of health care.

Please send this letter to your legislators.