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Pick Your Own Cuts: Tricare Changes

Among the many budget cut proposals that have popped up this year, the one that would have the biggest day-to-day impact on the lives of everyone -- active duty families, Guard and Reserve users and retirees -- is changes to Tricare. Tricare cuts are probably coming. But what will they be?

Healthcare is, hands down, the most expensive personnel cost for the Defense Department. If you retired from the military you are currently guaranteed low cost healthcare for life if you want it, no matter how expensive caring for you gets. If you medically retire at a certain disability rating, you currently have access to no-cost healthcare forever. Gold star family? Same story. Active duty family? Free, free, free if you want it with some costs for prescriptions depending on what you need and where you live. Some therapies for those with disabilities (like autism) carry extra costs, but for the most part healthcare is free.

What if you could pick your own Tricare benefit cuts? http://wp.me/p1d7d0-8le

So you can see why it costs the Defense Department so much, why they think that is unsustainable and why pretty much every expert who has given this stuff a hard think agrees that changes are in order.

As part of our little choose-your-own adventure benefits cuts series, we want to know what you would pick for your cuts if you could. We've laid out some options below and included them in a poll. Pick your poison I mean, er, changes.

Your Tricare cuts options:

1. Throw-out the current Tricare and get a "healthcare market place" instead.  This plan is what the Military Compensation Retirement Modernization Commission (MCRMC) report suggests. Rather than keeping the current Prime/Standard/Retiree model, those officials want to do away with the whole thing and instead give users a chance to pick their own healthcare plan from a "menu" of options. The DoD would pay your premium (enrollment fee). Active duty families/medically retired/gold star would receive a cash payout much like Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) to cover co-pays. Retirees would pay for that stuff out of pocket. Everyone would still have access to the military treatment facility (MTF) but using it would come with a copay. This plan could mean that military members have access to some healthcare benefits currently not covered by Tricare like glasses and chiropractor (can I get a "woohoo!?"). It could also end up costing the user more.

2. Toss current Tricare and get "Tricare consolidated" instead. This plan is what the president's current budget proposal for 2016 looks for and what he wanted for 2015 but lawmakers rejected. For this retirees would be paying higher enrollment fees and co-pays for, well, everything - including using the military treatment facility. Active duty families/medically retired/gold star folks would have changes made to their caps and new co-pays for services received at civilian providers. Everyone (except retirees) will still be able to use the MTF for free, but other fees will be based on rank even more than they currently are. And if you "abuse" an emergency room and get treatment there for something that isn't considered an actual emergency, you're going to pay for it.

3. Only change costs for future retirees from the incoming force. While I don't of this specific idea being floated, it goes in line with the general idea that current retirees entered the system under the promise of healthcare provided at the current rates and cost. Raising prices on them now, some say, is a disingenuous and immoral breaking of a promise from the nation to its past war fighters (thus the Keep Your Promise movement).

4. Change nothing. I'm not going to lie -- this may be wishful thinking. They are probably going to end up making changes. But this is your poll, so pick what you want.

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Photo courtesy www.401kcalculator.org via the Creative Commons License.

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