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By: sebastianjer , 01:09 PM GMT am 28. Februar 2012


BY: Bill Gertz

The Obama administration’s proposed defense budget calls for military families and retirees to pay sharply more for their healthcare, while leaving unionized civilian defense workers’ benefits untouched. The proposal is causing a major rift within the Pentagon, according to U.S. officials. Several congressional aides suggested the move is designed to increase the enrollment in Obamacare’s state-run insurance exchanges.

The disparity in treatment between civilian and uniformed personnel is causing a backlash within the military that could undermine recruitment and retention.

The proposed increases in health care payments by service members, which must be approved by Congress, are part of the Pentagon’s $487 billion cut in spending. It seeks to save $1.8 billion from the Tricare medical system in the fiscal 2013 budget, and $12.9 billion by 2017.

Many in Congress are opposing the proposed changes, which would require the passage of new legislation before being put in place.

“We shouldn’t ask our military to pay our bills when we aren’t willing to impose a similar hardship on the rest of the population,” Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee and a Republican from California, said in a statement to the Washington Free Beacon. “We can’t keep asking those who have given so much to give that much more.”

Administration officials told Congress that one goal of the increased fees is to force military retirees to reduce their involvement in Tricare and eventually opt out of the program in favor of alternatives established by the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare.

“When they talked to us, they did mention the option of healthcare exchanges under Obamacare. So it’s in their mind,” said a congressional aide involved in the issue.

Military personnel from several of the armed services voiced their opposition to a means-tested tier system for Tricare, prompting Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey to issue a statement Feb. 21.

Dempsey said the military is making tough choices in cutting defense spending. In addition to the $487 billion over 10 years, the Pentagon is facing automatic cuts that could push the total reductions to $1 trillion.

“I want those of you who serve and who have served to know that we’ve heard your concerns, in particular your concern about the tiered enrollment fee structure for Tricare in retirement,” Dempsey said. “You have our commitment that we will continue to review our health care system to make it as responsive, as affordable, and as equitable as possible.”

Under the new plan, the Pentagon would get the bulk of its savings by targeting under-65 and Medicare-eligible military retirees through a tiered increase in annual Tricare premiums that will be based on yearly retirement pay.

Significantly, the plan calls for increases between 30 percent to 78 percent in Tricare annual premiums for the first year. After that, the plan will impose five-year increases ranging from 94 percent to 345 percent—more than 3 times current levels.

According to congressional assessments, a retired Army colonel with a family currently paying $460 a year for health care will pay $2,048.

The new plan hits active duty personnel by increasing co-payments for pharmaceuticals and eliminating incentives for using generic drugs.

The changes are worrying some in the Pentagon who fear it will severely impact efforts to recruit and maintain a high-quality all-volunteer military force. Such benefits have been a key tool for recruiting qualified people and keeping them in uniform.

“Would you stay with a car insurance company that raised your premiums by 345 percent in five years? Probably not,” said the congressional aide. “Would anybody accept their taxes being raised 345 percent in five years? Probably not.”

A second congressional aide said the administration’s approach to the cuts shows a double standard that hurts the military.

“We all recognize that we are in a time of austerity,” this aide said. “But defense has made up to this point 50 percent of deficit reduction cuts that we agreed to, but is only 20 percent of the budget.”

The administration is asking troops to get by without the equipment and force levels needed for global missions. “And now they are going to them again and asking them to pay more for their health care when you’ve held the civilian workforce at DoD and across the federal government virtually harmless in all of these cuts. And it just doesn’t seem fair,” the second aide said.

Spokesmen for the Defense Department and the Joint Chiefs of Staff did not respond to requests for comment on the Tricare increases.

The massive increases beginning next year appear timed to avoid upsetting military voters in a presidential election year, critics of the plan say.

Additionally, the critics said leaving civilian workers’ benefits unchanged while hitting the military reflect the administration’s effort to court labor unions, as government unions are the only segment of organized labor that has increased in recent years.

As part of the increased healthcare costs, the Pentagon also will impose an annual fee for a program called Tricare for Life, a new program that all military retirees automatically must join at age 65. Currently, to enroll in Tricare for Life, retirees pay the equivalent of a monthly Medicare premium.

Under the proposed Pentagon plan, retirees will be hit with an additional annual enrollment fee on top of the monthly premium.

Congressional aides said that despite unanimous support among the military chiefs for the current healthcare changes, some senior officials in the Pentagon are opposing the reforms, in particular the tiered system of healthcare.

“It doesn’t matter what the benefit is, whether it’s commissary, PX, or healthcare, or whatever … under the rationale that if you raise your hand and sign up to serve, you earn a base set of benefits, and it should have nothing to do with your rank when you served, and how much you’re making when you retire,” the first aide said.

Military service organizations are opposing the healthcare changes and say the Pentagon is “means-testing” benefits for service personnel as if they were a social program, and not something earned with 20 or more years of military service.

Retired Navy Capt. Kathryn M. Beasley, of the Military Officers Association of America, said the Military Coalition, 32 military service and veterans groups with an estimated 5 million members, is fighting the proposed healthcare increases, specifically the use of mean-testing for cost increases.

“We think it’s absolutely wrong,” Beasley told the Free Beacon. “This is a breach of faith” for both the active duty and retiree communities.

Congressional hearings are set for next month.

The Veterans of Foreign Wars on Feb. 23 called on all military personnel and the veterans’ community to block the healthcare increases.

“There is no military personnel issue more sacrosanct than pay and benefits,” said Richard L. DeNoyer, head of the 2 million-member VFW. “Any proposal that negatively impacts any quality of life program must be defeated, and that’s why the VFW is asking everyone to join the fight and send a united voice to Congress.”

Senior Air Force leaders are expected to be asked about the health care cost increases during a House Armed Services Committee hearing scheduled for Tuesday.

Congress must pass all the proposed changes into law, as last year’s defense authorization bill preemptively limited how much the Pentagon could increase some Tricare fees, while other fees already were limited in law.

Tricare for Life, Tricare Prime, and Tricare Standard increases must be approved, as well as some of the pharmacy fee increases, congressional aides said.

Current law limits Tricare fee increases to cost of living increases in retirement pay.

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Reader Comments

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16. MissNadia
12:57 PM GMT am 29. Februar 2012
Does anyone know how many civilians are on the Pentagon's Payroll?

How many military ?
Member Since: Dezember 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
15. theshepherd
12:50 PM GMT am 29. Februar 2012
"Quantum Economics"

Sort of like Quantum Physics.

By employing Alchemy we can package our debt via Bubble Nucleation and send it through a wormhole to an alternate Universe for payment. It then returns, Paid in Full.


Member Since: Dezember 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
14. theshepherd
12:35 PM GMT am 29. Februar 2012
2. seflagamma

@ "We allow "office working government employees" not to pay any part of their medical or their benefits
but our military must pay for benefits from their paychecks?"

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That speaks volumes.

Military benefits are breaking the budget, but office worker benefits are not ?

As any fool can see...I see.

Where are the votes?

Member Since: Dezember 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
13. billsfaninsofla
04:22 AM GMT am 29. Februar 2012
Olympia Snowe. Did she consult bobble-head Collins? What decision did she make?
Member Since: Dezember 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
02:28 AM GMT am 29. Februar 2012
Hmmm a moderate that certainly has a chance to beat Obama??? I wonder what her motive is???
Member Since: Dezember 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
02:26 AM GMT am 29. Februar 2012
...will not run for re-election to the Senate?
Member Since: Dezember 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
02:25 AM GMT am 29. Februar 2012
Senator Olympia Snowe from Maine...
Member Since: Dezember 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
9. TemplesOfSyrinxC4
11:41 PM GMT am 28. Februar 2012
There's nothing conservative about the Heritage Foundation- they are part of the neocon establishment- they do not reflect true paleoconservative principles of limited government of the Old Right in the vein of Robert Taft-the neocons are just as much for the big government Nanny-State as the left.

What difference does it make which "side" of the oligarchical duopoly supposedly created the individual mandate, there'd be many cheerleaders on both "sides" that claim to be for or against it now that if McCain had been elected-the poll on percentage of people who believe it to be Constitutional or not would likely be flipped.

ObamaCare for all intents and purposes is a cronyist bailout for Big Insurance and Big Pharma (that spent over $150 million in pro-ObamaCare ads) written by corporate lobbyists, WalMart was for it as well because smaller chains and Mom&Pops stores are forced to pay disproportionately more per employee for Obamacare than the big-box chains. Liberals would've been throwing a fit about it if it were enacted under Bush, so it was smart of the ruling class to use Obama to do it under a supposedly socialist President under "left cover".

The ruling oligarchs are able to use puppet Obama (Bill Kristol and Robert Kagan call him a 'born-again neocon')under left cover to offensively bomb Libya without the level of political resistance that would've been seen if Bush had done it, it's O.K. as long as he calls it 'humanitarian', meanwhile much of the left that were rightly criticizing the war crimes under the last administration, they're all for it now that they believe it's the guy they voted for and is a part of their tribe doing it.

Nobel War is Peace prize winner Obama can get away with using drones to kill American citizens without charge, a right that Bush also claimed he had, but now codified into law under NDAA (not nearly as much of an outcry from liberals on this as there was for Patriot Act even though it goes much further). The general public for the most part are not at all consistent with their ideals-they just root for what they believe to be their side, right or wrong-as if it's a sporting event, red team/blue team.

Member Since: Dezember 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
6. sebastianjer
10:06 PM GMT am 28. Februar 2012
Obama's health reform isn't modeled after Heritage Foundation ideas
Member Since: Dezember 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
4. sebastianjer
08:33 PM GMT am 28. Februar 2012
Re 3

Isn't it interesting that one of the President's and others on the left biggest hyperbolic attacks is on "Big Banks" and big Financial institutions coercing home buyers into mortgages. Yet this same group of people see no problem in coercing people, beyond coercing, legislating with the rule of law that people buy insurance. Hypocrites does not even begin to define these people.
Member Since: Dezember 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
3. sebastianjer
08:27 PM GMT am 28. Februar 2012

ObamaCare, contracts, and duress
by John Hayward

The Institute for Justice has filed a fascinating new legal brief against the ObamaCare individual mandate, raising a devastating point about the damage ObamaCare’s core concept of “mandated commerce” will do to our legal understanding of contract law:

Constitutional law professor Elizabeth Price Foley, who is the executive director of the Institute's Florida Chapter and who co-authored IJ's brief, said, "The individual mandate violates a cardinal rule of contract law—to be enforceable, all agreements must be voluntary. The Framers understood this, and would never have given the federal government the power to force individuals into lifelong contracts of insurance. The Court should not allow the government to exercise this unprecedented and dangerous power."

As IJ's brief shows, the principle of mutual assent, under which both parties must consent for a contract to be valid, is a fundamental principle of contract law that was well understood during the Founding era and is still a cornerstone of contract law today. Indeed, contracts entered under duress have long been held to be invalid. Yet the mandate forces individuals to enter into contracts of insurance that would never be valid under this longstanding principle. (For a copy of IJ's brief, visit: www.ij.org/PPACAbrief.)

If the U.S. Supreme Court fails to strike down the individual mandate, there will be nothing to stop Congress from forcing people into other contracts against their will—employment contracts or union membership, for example. If we still have a constitutional republic in which the federal government's powers are limited, then the Court should strike down this law.

(Emphasis mine.) The Institute also produced a short video explaining their legal brief:

Now that is some world-class outside-the-box thinking. Hopefully the Supreme Court does the right thing, and strikes down Obama’s blatantly unconstitutional health care “reform,” before we all get trapped inside the box, while ObamaCare nails it shut.
Member Since: Dezember 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
2. seflagamma
07:57 PM GMT am 28. Februar 2012
Rob, I agree with you...

If our men and women serve our country in the Military, they need to be protected.
They need health insurance and if they get hurt
they need life long health protection.

My Dad uses his Veterans Medical rather than Medicare because in the Memphis area it is better care.
And I am glad he is given this benefit.

We allow "office working government employees" not to pay any part of their medical or their benefits
but our military must pay for benefits from their paychecks?

As a country we MUST take care of our Vets Past and Present.

Save the money else where, there are a lot of companies/folks getting getting government
handouts that should not be...
stop all of that first.

Member Since: Dezember 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
1. RobDaHood
03:29 PM GMT am 28. Februar 2012
Makes me sick and ashamed.

Young people that volunteer to serve their country, even at the risk of their very lives, not knowing what they may face, only that they will face it to the best of their abilities.

Older Vets who were drafted, never wanted to serve but thrust into a war and served honorably, only to return home and be spit upon in the street.

Everyone here knows my views about this. They deserve the very best we can offer them. Many would not have the health care needs that they have were it not for their service.

Way to say thank you USA. But you know what? Even after all this, most of these guys would go back and do it again if they felt their homeland was in peril. It's just the kind of folks they are. They deserve better.
Member Since: Dezember 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:

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