In what looks like unfair treatment of military families and retirees the Obama administration has proposed to ask that they pay much more for their healthcare than what unionized civilian defense workers will need to pay.
Push to Obamacare
The defense budget cut proposal is causing division in the Pentagon, say US officials. A number of congressional aides have said that the intention of the move is most likely to increase enrollment in the new health care act’s state-run insurance exchanges.
The discrepancy in the treatment of civilian versus uniformed personnel is causing unpleasant repercussions within the military which could lead to an undermining of recruitment and retention.
Congressional Approval Needed
Congress must first approve the proposed health care payments by military members since they are part of the wider proposal to cut the Pentagon’s budget by $487 billion. The cuts will save $1.8 billion from the Tricare medical system over the course of the 2013 budget. By 2017 it is hoped that the cuts will amount to $12.9 billion.
Many congressmen are against the administration’s proposed changes, which would necessitate new legislation before they could be implemented.
“We shouldn’t ask our military to pay our bills when we aren’t willing to impose a similar hardship on the rest of the population,” Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee and a Republican from California, said in a statement. “We can’t keep asking those who have given so much to give that much more.”
Obama officials told Congress that one of the goals of increasing fees for military families and retirees to eventually leave the Tricare program and choose instead one of the alternative methods of receiving health care coverage established by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, otherwise known as Obamacare.
“When they talked to us, they did mention the option of healthcare exchanges under Obamacare. So it’s in their mind,” said a congressional aide involved in the issue.
The increase in the amount that military personnel was assessed by Congress: a retired Army colonel with a family is today paying $460 per year for his health care. If Obama’s proposal is approved that number will climb to $2,048.
Military Career Less Appealing Without the Perks
Pentagon officials are worried that such sharp decreases in benefits for military personnel will seriously compromise the army’s ability to recruit and retain highly qualified people, which is an all-volunteer force. Officials say that such benefits are a key incentive for recruiting and keeping great people in the armed forces.
“There is no military personnel issue more sacrosanct than pay and benefits,” said Richard L. DeNoyer, head of the 2 million-member Veterans of Foreign Wars. “Any proposal that negatively impacts any quality of life program must be defeated, and that’s why the VFW is asking everyone to join the fight and send a united voice to Congress.”