A series of proposed Tricare and commissary cuts have been rejected by House lawmakers, and will not be included in their version of the annual defense spending bill, lawmakers said April 22.
Both the Pentagon's 2015 budget request and recommendations from a congressionally mandated panel included major overhauls to Tricare and the Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA). House lawmakers, however, chose to ignore those recommendations and instead focus their reform efforts on an overhaul of the military retirement system.
Despite reports that Rep. Joe Heck, R-Nevada, head of the House Armed Service Committee's Personnel Subcommittee, favored a plan proposed by the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission (MCRMC) to combine the commissary and exchange systems, the committee dismissed the proposal.
Also rejected was a plan from the Pentagon to slash commissary funding by $1 billion over several years. Instead, the committee's version of the legislation is silent on the subject of commissary spending.
The legislation also does not address plans to overhaul Tricare. While a Pentagon proposal called for combining Tricare's various plans into a single program known as "Consolidated Tricare," the MCRMC proposed dismantling Tricare and pushing users instead into a healthcare marketplace like one currently used by civilian federal employees.
The committee, however, dismissed both of those options, instead opting to leave Tricare intact as it is.
The legislation does, however, direct the establishment of a Pentagon level "unified medical command" designed to better facilitate medical interoperability across the services.
The proposed bill also authorizes the Pentagon to conduct a pharmacy pilot program to "look at the landscape of pharmacy networks across the health care industry and identify if there are any best practices that can be piloted within the DoD health system to improve the benefit and reduce the cost," according to a committee spokesman.
But changes to the commissary and Tricare are not completely off the table.
Senate lawmakers will begin work on their version of the legislation in the coming weeks and overhauls could be included there. Differences between the House and Senate legislation will be worked out in a conference later this year.
-- Amy Bushatz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org