Readers of Tom Philpott’s Military Update column sound off on finding ways to avoid TRICARE fee increases.
SUBSTITUTES SUGGESTED TO TRICARE DRUG CO-PAY INCREASES
This new pharmacy fees proposal is such a crock. My last eight years in service before retiring in 2000, my aircraft intermediate maintenance department had to “use or lose” budgeted dollars by Sept. 30, the end of the fiscal year. So what did we do to ensure we received at least the prior year’s budget request? We blew the money on needless or redundant items. So for many years I bought new office furniture, new phone systems and so on.
I am sure this process has not changed.
From 2004-2011 I was a Department of Defense contract pilot in Iraq. Talk about a total misuse of taxpayers’ money due to ineptness of tracking money. How about holding people in charge accountable for proper use of money in their charge? Perhaps then there would be money to keep promises made to those who honorably served. Better yet make TRICARE a tiered system. There is a huge gap in retired pay between an E-6 and an O-6.
Why not charge the O-6 three or four times that of the E-6? ROB LASKY Via email
If these high-ranking personnel want to raise drug co-pays, set them by RHIP (rank has its privileges) -- the higher the rank the more they pay. DAVID FOWLER Via email
Why can't we stop spending – wasting -- billions on these foreign countries that our men and women already have sacrificed for, rather than these veterans they have to give more?
I have yet to hear anyone stand up and say, “Foreign aid will have to be cut before we make cuts in veteran benefits.”
THOMAS G. ENGLER USAF-Ret. Via email
I understand we have to make choices in a tough economy but I find it disheartening that the administration is using this situation to try to make sweeping changes in TRICARE prescription fees.
For years we were told military compensation was based on more than straight salary. Pay and allowances were lower than civilian sector salaries because of more generous retirement and health care benefits.
Now, one of the reasons many families stayed and served for over 20 years with lower pay is being cut to certain geographical areas and priced so high many will not be able to afford it.
More disturbing is that this comes at a time in life when military members need their healthcare as bodies start to show the wear and tear of commitments to serving the country.
It's a shame that the government can't show the same commitment in taking care of them.
CENEMA JUDD Via email
The Department of Defense plan to raise TRICARE prescriptions fees is totally absurd. [Defense Secretary] Chuck Hagel, [Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen.] Martin Dempsey and anyone else who thinks this is a good idea need to have their heads examined.
It won't be long before retirement benefits are so bad that the draft will have to be brought back to man a tugboat let alone an aircraft carrier.
Maybe Hagel and Dempsey have been in Washington too long to remember what it is like to fight for something that is right. Making retired military members pay more and carry a heavier burden is not right.
They should think about raising our pensions at the same rate they want to raise our out of pocket costs. That would be the right thing to do.
Tomorrow I will be a Republican; Democrats have obviously lost their minds!
DANIEL HUNNINGS Chief Petty Officer, USN-Ret. Via email
It might be worth remembering that the Bush administration, across several budget years, proposed even steeper TRICARE Prime increases for working-age retirees than sought by the Obama administration. On the other hand, the proposed pharmacy fee increases would be higher under the new plan. Military folks who pay careful attention will know that party politics seems to play only a small role historically in attempts to “reform” military compensation. It seems the party in power usually tries to dampen pay and benefits, and the minority enjoys publicly stopping those attempts, and then crowing about, until they become the majority. When both parties go quiet on the need to protect military pay and benefits, watch out. – Tom Philpott
The "sell" behind these higher pharmacy fees is to get us to use [mail order through] Express Scripts. But hidden is the fact that Express Scripts takes 30-45 days to fill a new order, which means we will pay a higher cost for all short-term prescriptions as well as at least the first fill of long-term prescriptions. There ought to be an exception built in for these situations.
On the one hand they are working hard to save money by reducing the federal cost-of-living adjustment and on the other hand they are raising our prescription rates far faster than retiree COLA would rise.
The article says, “Also on Oct. 1, if Congress allows, brand name drugs not on the military-approved formulary would become unavailable using TRICARE at neighborhood drug outlets except on a very limited basis."
What about the drugs not on the formulary? Does this mean we will have to bear the entire cost?
BILL TANDY Via email
The changes are designed to encourage beneficiaries to use mail order or bases pharmacies or, to avoid paying full cost at retail for drugs not on the formulary, to have your doctor subscribe a generic drug or a substitute drug that is on the formulary. – T.P.
When freeloaders in Congress and other high-ranking government officials start paying the going rate for their health insurance, you can raise my TRICARE payments. Until then, leave my 20-year service benefits alone.
PATRICK DRISCOLL Saint Paul, MN
I'm afraid we're there. It's a myth that member of Congress don't pay for their health care. They are under the same Federal Employee Federal Benefits Plan, the same as federal civilian employees. That means they pay monthly premiums equal to about 28 percent of the insurance program’s costs, which is higher than military beneficiaries pay. – T.P.