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I woke up to this headline this morning:

Higher TRICARE Premiums on Gates' Cost-Cut Agenda

For those of you who don't know, retirees from the military pay premiums for their health care program, Tricare.  Not so long ago, they received health care for themselves and their family for free.  When fees where introduced, all hell broke lose, a court case ensued, and the judges determined that military members may have been promised free health care by recruiters, they may have assumed free health care because that's the way it had always been done, but that no contract existed so they actually had no rights to free health care at all.

The Obama Administration is playing the same game that the Bush Administration did... this time, with the calls for spending cuts loud and crazy, they may actually succeed.

Secretary Gates is definitely putting TRICARE on the table.  It is unsure if Active Duty Family will remain in the clear.  However,

If past proposals are a reliable guide, the target of higher fees is likely to be military retirees rather than active duty families. The Bush administration had tried for three straight years to raise fees for working age retirees. Congress blocked those efforts.

So, military retirees are expected to take a hit yet again.  And, this time, they'll try to get a Democratic Congress and a Democratic President to take the fall:

Defense officials hope lawmakers, faced with mounting federal debt and tightening defense budgets, will be more receptive to the argument that TRICARE fees haven't been raised since they were set in 1995.

Health care is a definite problem.  One of the reasons I worked so hard on the HCR legislation was an inherent understanding that the military costs for their retiree population would one day overwhelm the system.  If we had a better national health care system, it would have helped.  Instead, we get more privatized care, more insurance reform, none of which helps the stressed military system.

"Everybody knows that we're being eaten alive by health care. I believe there is a growing understanding on [Capitol] Hill about this. It cost us $19 billion in 2000 or 2001. It'll cost us over $50 billion in FY '11, and will cost us about $65 billion in FY '15. And particularly when the top line [of defense budgets] is only growing at a percent or thereabouts, it's unsustainable and therefore it has to be a part of our effort."

Yet again, our government wants to balance it's budget on the backs of the very people who least deserve to carry the load.  

Some of you may shrug because these co-pays and fees don't seem like a lot of money, especially compared to what many Americans have to pay for their care.  But for many retirees on fixed incomes, these fees came out of nowhere.  My mom can't wait to hit 65 when Medicare starts so that her cost share will go down.  If Medicare age came down to 55, it could help keep TRICARE solvent.

My husband will retire in the next five years or so.  We will watch a huge chunk of monthly retirement pay go towards insurance for four of us - two college age kids and ourselves.  We know that and we're starting to plan.  However, the best laid plans may not be enough.

Originally posted to A Progressive Military Wife on Tue Aug 17, 2010 at 07:55 AM PDT.

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