Proposed TRICARE Fees Worry Retirees

This week readers of Tom Philpott's Military Update column sound off on the proposed TRICARE enrollment fees.

RETIREES WORRY TRICARE FEES WILL LOWER TOTAL INCOME

That was a great article on the plan to raise TRICARE fees.  Thanks for keeping the active and retiree forces informed.

Where can I obtain a copy of the proposed legislation that details how the changes in TRICARE fees would be structured? I would like to do the math myself on how the new fees will impact me.

My gut feel is that the combination of capped retiree cost-of-living adjustments and increased or new TRICARE fees would mean that retirees such as myself would begin to experience an overall negative financial impact, starting in 2015 and thereafter.

Your assistance is greatly appreciated.

STEPHEN GRIMES
Lieutenant Colonel, USAF-Ret

The details are in a budget report found on line.  First, click on the following link: http://comptroller.defense.gov/budget.html

Second, click on "Overview" report and the details of the TRICARE proposals are found on page 5-5 of that report.  – Tom Philpott

I am the spouse of a retired service member.  The government wants to raise our TRICARE and prescription fees.  I understand the government needs more money.  But we will not get retiree raises that cover the difference.  That is, our pay won't be going up by the percentage to be taken from our paychecks.

We already have a low income.  How can the government take more away from men and women not getting significant raises who risked their lives to guard our country?  This is not what retirement is supposed to be.

But a sliding schedule for TRICARE fees makes much more sense than a straight across-the-board rise for all no matter what retirees make.

JANE ANDRESANO
Via email

I am disgusted by this ongoing assault against military retirees' health fees.  I am a dependent of a military retiree who was 100 percent disabled before he died in 2004.  I am on Medicare with TRICARE for Life (TFL) as my supplement.  My total retirement income from civil service, social security, the Defense Finance and Accounting Service and the Department of Veterans Affairs is a whopping $36,000 a year.

I get most of my medications from a nearby military base and those I have to get from a local pharmacy require a co-payment of $5 per 30-day supply.  That the Obama administration is trying to add a TLF enrollment fee and raise the co-pays is ludicrous.

I would be more amenable to enrollment fees and higher co-pays if these charges were pro-rated based on income. 

While active duty military, retirees and their dependents face serious cutbacks and assaults on their retirement income, not one dime is shaved off expensive trips and perks the president and members of Congress enjoy at taxpayers' expense.

At a minimum, if this administration gets its way with higher TRICARE fees, they should not expect everyone who receives a check to pay the exact same amount for coverage.  Perhaps retired officers can afford this; I cannot.

BARBARA HATHAWAY
Via email

I'm a 20-year active duty Air Force retiree.  I cannot believe President Obama is proposing TRICARE premium increases.  The way I understand it is instead of getting my retiree COLA [cost-of-living adjustment], which I was promised, it will in effect go toward paying more for my healthcare.

BRETT FIELD
Via email

I want to voice my opposition to higher fees TRICARE for Life users.

I am a widow on a very low fixed income.  I don't know how I could possibly afford to pay extra fees.

Unfortunately, though my husband tried, I was left without a survivor benefit of any kind.  So if TRICARE fees go up, this would be a double whammy on me because I'm essentially poor.

IRIS A. THOMAS
Via email

My husband is dead now but he gave 21 years of his life to this country.  As his wife, I took care of the home front when he was on away on temporary duty. I don't get much of my deceased husband's retirement pay because we could only afford the smallest Survivor Benefit Plan package. 

Now the government is going to start charging retirees and active duty more for their health insurance? I have a better idea.  Why don't we start saving money on Capitol Hill by ending their salaries and health insurance after their first term?

PEGGY ALEXANDER
Springfield, Mo. 

Your article on the TRICARE fee increases proposed in the fiscal 2014 defense budget request stated that the fee to be paid by TRICARE for Life beneficiaries would equal "one half of one percentage point of gross retired pay in 2014; one percent in 2015" and so on.

Is that gross military retired pay or gross household retired pay, regardless of source?

DON REHWALDT
Via email

That would be gross military retired pay. – T.P.

I have just read about Obama's budget and he goes one more time after the military. How can he put forth a budget like this after the way the military has preformed these past years?  To cut a service member's VA disability benefits [by dampening yearly increases] is the last straw.

If he wants to save money, he should start at his own home. He has hurt the U.S. and now he has started on the military.

GARLAND G. HILL
USAF-Ret.

My husband is retired Navy.  These service men were promised health care for life when they joined.  It will be an absolute shame to make them pay more for health care.  If the fees are increased, it will just be another lie the government told them.

If our senators and representatives don't stand up to Obama, and tell him this is enough with lousy decisions, we will not have enough people joining the military to defend our country.

LAVELLE BANNON
Via email

Assuming a divorce between a retiree and his spouse in which the spouse is awarded 50 percent of his retirement pay, would TRICARE premiums for the retiree be based on the portion of the retirement income the court allows him to keep?  Or would the premium based on the total gross pay, which includes that awarded to the ex-spouse?

JAMES B.
Philadelphia, Pa.

Court-ordered award of shares of retired pay to ex-spouses likely would have no impact on lowering premiums for the retiree for TRICARE coverage, if Congress were to approve the fee formula tied to "gross" retired pay, as proposed by the Obama administration.

But these proposals have many hurdles to clear before they would become law. – T.P.

Letters may be edited for clarity or length.  Write to Military Forum, P.O. Box 231111, Centreville, VA 20120-1111, send e-mail to militaryforum@aol.com or visit www.militaryupdate.com

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About

Tom Philpott has been breaking news for and about military people since 1977. After service in the Coast Guard, and 17 years as a reporter and senior editor with Army Times Publishing Company, Tom launched "Military Update," his syndicated weekly news column, in 1994. "Military Update" features timely news and analysis on issues affecting active duty members, reservists, retirees and their families.

Visit Tom Philpott's Military Update Archive to view his past articles.

Tom also edits a reader reaction column, "Military Forum." The online "home" for both features is Military.com.

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Tom's freelance articles have appeared in numerous magazines including The New Yorker, Reader's Digest and Washingtonian. His critically-acclaimed book, Glory Denied, on the extraordinary ordeal and heroism of Col. Floyd "Jim" Thompson, the longest-held prisoner of war in American history, is available in hardcover and paperback.

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