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DoD Budget Plan Takes Aim at TRICARE

The proposed 2015 DoD budget could kill TRICARE Prime and increase out-of-pocket medical expenses for dependents and retirees. Much of the first reports on the proposed 2015 defense budget didn't necessarily focus on the details or specific areas to be cut. Many of details won't be available until March 4th. However, there are some details available on one of the most significant benefits areas to be hit - TRICARE. TRICARE, originally named for its three levels of health care coverage (Prime, Extra, and Standard), has been providing affordable healthcare coverage for military dependents and retirees for nearly 20 years. But, according to columnist Tom Philpott’s recent Military Update, the DoD is proposing to merge the three options into a single fee-for-service insurance option, similar to the current Standard option. The proposed changes to TRICARE would not affect active-duty servicemembers access to free healthcare, but their dependents and working-age military retirees would face higher costs to include a share of medical expenses and perhaps a new annual enrollment fee, set initially at $285 for individuals and $569 for families. Beneficiaries could see lower costs if they use military treatment facilities or "preferred" care providers who offer military discounts. However, the plans include charging retirees a new co-pays for using on-base treatment facilities. New co-pays also would be set for military families and retirees who use emergency rooms inappropriately for routine care. Philpott reports that TRICARE Prime would likely end as defense health officials continue to argue that Prime is too costly to operate for the military. According to Philpott, beneficiaries 65 and older would continue to have access to TRICARE for Life, but, they would face a new enrollment fee. It might be set at one percent of military retired pay but capped so as not to exceed $300 a year. On the upside, many believe that most of the DoD's proposed benefit cuts are not likely to get passed Congress. The question is, which ones will? Stay tuned as more details will be available March 4 when the budget is formally rolled-out. For more details on Pay Caps, commissary Cuts and BAH Reductions, read Tom Philpott’s full article.  

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