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I'm not sure yet where this diary is going.  I'm a retired, disabled veteran and although I could purchase health care through my employer, I use Tricare because it is a vastly better deal.

Let's get to the Cat Food part of this diary:  Among its other recommendations, the Deficit Commission has recommended sharp increases to the cost of Tricare for family members and retirees.  To a degree, I'm okay with that.  But wait, it gets better.

Before I get too far into this, I should say that I believe the current cost of Tricare premiums is too low and there should be a rate increase.  I currently pay about $860 per year to insure a family of six.  Thank you, taxpayers but that is just a bit too generous and it wouldn't bug me in the slightest to pay a few thousand dollars more per year in premiums.  Really.

However...

Let's set the Wayback Machine to 1981 when I first enlisted and free health care for life was part of the enticement (on a space-available basis thru a program called CHAMPUS).  We already lost that; Tricare is the for-fee HMO that became available in 1993.  Tricare is what I think national health insurance should be:  good service provided for reasonable premiums by a combination of government facilities and the private sector.

From my perspective as retiree who now works in the private sector, Tricare's major benefit is its portability:  I am not chained to my employer's health care plan.  I have a degree of employment freedom that I think everyone should have and I don't relish seeing curtailed for myself.  Another aspect of having portable health care is that I don't add the cost of my health care to my employer's payroll.  Common sense tells me that's a hiring advantage.  Again, I think a national insurance plan should take health insurance out of the payroll equation, and I don't relish seeing the potential cost of my own health care become a hiring discriminator for future employers.

As I said, I have no problem with a "sharp increase" in premiums.  But "sharp increase" isn't what the Deficit Commission has in mind for working military retirees.

The commission wants working military retirees off Tricare--period.  To achieve this they are recommending that employers of military retirees be forced to pay Tricare for the difference between the cost of Tricare and the cost of the employer-offered plan.  In my view this creates two classes of military retirees--those who don't work and would continue to access Tricare albeit at higher premiums, and those who do work and would suddenly be faced with either leaving Tricare for employer-provided insurance or placing a financial burden on their employer in the form of forced compensation to Tricare.  Health could become a hiring factor for people whose physical condition is a consequence of national service.

I'm sure there's an element of sake-induced bitching in this diary (raspberry flavored Hana, which is exquisite).  I don't want a gold-plated health care plan but I do think that the nation should stand by deals it has already made with its veterans.  We've already paid for the common good once with our bodies and twice with our individual freedoms; it's a bit tacky to ask us to pay a third time in treasure.

Originally posted to DaveinBremerton on Sat Nov 20, 2010 at 08:32 PM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (18+ / 0-)

    "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win". Mohandas K. Ghandi

    by DaveinBremerton on Sat Nov 20, 2010 at 08:32:41 PM PST

  •  We are making strides in covering "Agent Orange" (6+ / 0-)

    and "Gulf War Syndrome", but are still lagging in caring for PTSD and TBI with the looming controversy over "Burn Pits" and exposure to other toxic hazards.

    We are seeing our young vets dealing with over 20% unemployment. Reservists and Guardsmen are left hanging when they return to their communities in many cases.

    So, I would say that I am totally appalled at some of the recommendations of the "Cat Fooders", including messing with the VA.

    The last time "they" delved in and saved Soc. Sec. my dad who served in the heat of battle in WW II was placed in the 'notch years' and did not receive his full benefits along with many others born at the same time. Fortunately, he worked during the years when his employer provided both a 'nice' pension and health/drug insurance for his retirement.

    There are still some serious tweaks that need to happen to the new GI Bill which by all indications will go begging. And the backlogged disability claims continue.

    Please count YOUR blessing, but look at the big picture for those who are not so fortunate as you to have TRICARE and employment.

    "...fighting the wildfires of my life with squirt guns."

    by deMemedeMedia on Sat Nov 20, 2010 at 09:04:15 PM PST

    •  Thanks (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      bablhous, deMemedeMedia

      Please count YOUR blessing, but look at the big picture for those who are not so fortunate as you to have TRICARE and employment.

      Believe me, I do.  As you've pointed out, there are scores of vets who aren't so lucky.

      •  They also want to raise the retirement to 25 (3+ / 0-)

        years of service.

        "...fighting the wildfires of my life with squirt guns."

        by deMemedeMedia on Sat Nov 20, 2010 at 09:55:29 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I'm not opposed to that... (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          mmacdDE, deMemedeMedia, worldlotus

          ...with some major caveats:

          1.  If it happens, all who are currently serving should be grandfathered at their current retirement plan
          1.  Thrift Savings Plan enrollment should be mandatory and disenrollment should not be permitted until the rank of E-6 or 8 years of service, whichever comes latest
          1.  Financial education should be ongoing and mandatory
          1.  For those who separate between 10 and 25 years, there should be a sliding-scale severance analagous to the $30K lump sum option currently offered at the (I think) 18 year point
          1.  Equivalent civilian licenses and certificates (pilot's license, medical degrees, aircraft mechanic's certificates, etc) should be issued when criteria are met, and job training should be geared toward meeting those criteria
          1.  Recruiting should change to reflect the fact that serving to retirement is an unlikely outcome.

          The fact is that the 20-year retirement doesn't serve the nation well anymore, and we need SNCOs to serve past the current max limit of 30 years.  The services may have already gone to a 40-year maximum, but I'm not positive on that.

          The downside to changing the retirement plan is that we might end up with a military that is more focused on preparing for civilian life than in contributing to an effective force.  I am worried about the potential death of professionalism.

          •  The other side of the coin is the "too many (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            BlackSheep1, testvet6778, worldlotus

            generals" issue that keeps coming up.

            It's the 'mid-levels' that are reported to be short both for E's and O's, including ring knockers who are doing 5 and out.

            Also, with the current war stressors they are needing to up-grade fitness training with so many stress related injuries occurring.

            More 'cat food' is NO raises.

            And how long can we keep using the Guard and Reserve at the rate we are? Filing out units with 'individual' assignments? Personally, I think we need some realistic number crunching.

            "...fighting the wildfires of my life with squirt guns."

            by deMemedeMedia on Sat Nov 20, 2010 at 11:03:02 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

  •  Vets would become unemployable, I fear. (5+ / 0-)

    Just part of the rest of us who are tossed on the trash heap at younger and younger ages.  It is simply not right, fair, or just to strike a bargain with people when you need them and then abrogate the deal when it's to your benefit...and too many in Washington let it bother them in the slightest.

    By the way, while my ex is a vet, I'm not--so I have no horse in this race.  I DO have a strong sense of justice, tho.  It was our generation sucked out of schools and life and dropped in 'Nam.  Now, suddenly, it's just "too expensive"???

    They should have thought about that before they squandered lives and health of service members.  

    "It's a big club--and you ain't in it!." - George Carlin

    by revsue on Sat Nov 20, 2010 at 09:09:27 PM PST

  •  Recommended because this is a conversation (7+ / 0-)

    to be had.

    I am the wife of an active duty member and the daughter of a retiree. My mom and dad can't afford a rise in premiums. They're on a fixed income and I don't think their Tri-care fees should rise. Hell, he already expected free health care for life and lost it because Congress and the Courts said there was no contract signed between the government and it's military retirees... only the words of recruiters and past example.

    My husband and I sat down at his 10 year point and discussed the benefits of staying in and getting out. The health care was one of the reasons we decided to stay. If they start raising premiums, then we might have been better off in the civilian world. Maybe not. We can't look back can we? But the point is that families make decisions based on promised made. The government needs to live up to it's word and provide low cost, affordable health care to vets, retirees, and their families. They need to keep the system free for active duty families as well.

    When the government starts taking away benefits like this, they lose a lot of good men and women. In 15-20 years, our armed services won't have great leaders because they will have left the service to find safer employment with decent benefits elsewhere.

    •  You're correct (3+ / 0-)

      And I should stress that my comments about Tricare fees are one G.I.'s opinion.  I'm not hurting financially so the fee thing is less important than freedom in employment.

      There are lots of vets who don't stumble into a good job after retirement and for whom fee hikes would be very painful.

      But the point is that families make decisions based on promised made.

      You're spot-on and I'm glad you brought this up.

  •  Military needs to go back to (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mmacdDE, DaveinBremerton, worldlotus
    Champus.

    My dad served 32 years military in first the US Army, then the US Airforce when it opened.. My dad joined Dec. 9, 1943 and retired E-9 Chief Master Sergent Dec. 28, 1974. He fought wwII and his first assignment was combat pararescue 101 airbore behind enemy lines D-Day Normandy.. He also fought in the 504 Red-Devils USAF in Korea.. he was 82nd Airborne USAF in Vietnam (4 tours).

    He passed Feb. 12, 2004.

    He got life long free medical care (Champus)for any hospital (Civillian hospitals required Military hospital referrals), including, Regular Military Hospitals (like Willford Hall Medical Center, San Antonio, TX, Lackland AFB), Civillian hospitals like Methodist and Humanna and St. Lukes in San Antonio, or Audie Murphy VA Hospital, Kerrivlle, TX. Champus covering the entire family (life long of Husband & Wife) including kids covered until age 18 [24 if college student].

    They were enacting Tricare in the 90's with new recruits who should have recieved full free medical care after providing 20 years of service and retiring with honorable discharge, and they got 10 to 15 years medical care for 10 to 12 years service (medical time started after retiring with honorable discharge), and 5 years medical after completing and discharging honorably after a basic 4 year service. (I enlisted in US Army with those options for medical which was a shock after growing up with Champus)

    During the 90s, they (military medical) had attempted to change my dad's Champus to Tricare several times.. he refused and got the Texas Rep. to find out why they were attempting to change his plan.. the response was that they wanted to get everyone on the new system and his health insurance coverage wouldn't change, however it wasn't manditory for his provider / coverage to be changed.. after a couple of years in the 90's contacting Lemar Smith (the Tex. Rep. a rethug, but he came through in the end after about 2 years) and talking to the VA and other Military health care coverage officials, they eventually stopped trying to get my father to change his policy.. If my dad had gone to Tricare, he would have lost the ability to get referred to Civillian specialists at civillian hospitals and clinics (or he would have had to co-pay 80/20 (my dad would have had to pay 20% of the medical bill out of pocket)on Civillian appointments / procedures).

    Military Champus needs to be re-instated for anyone who discharges honorably after 12 years or more of service, leave the 10 year tricare for those serving 10 years or less (minimum of 4 years) with honorable discharge.

    Champus needs to come back for our Veterans.. Seeing as how soldiers would scam PTSD or Gulf War Syndrome on Champus (thus the reason for the change to Tricare in the 90s), Strict regulations need to be enforced with undeniable proof of soldier conditions under Champus and Tricare..

    but I have to agree that what they are doing with Tricare currently is just shameful. Champus needs to make a comeback. (I know Champus bacame Tricare.. but we need Champus coverage for our Military personel that have over 12 years military under their belt and an honorable discharge that will cover the entire family).

    •  Edit to first paragraph.. (0+ / 0-)
      My father retired Dec. 28, 1973 not 1974... I was his retirement gift being born Feb. 23, 1974.
    •  I hear what you're saying (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      BlackSheep1, skwimmer

      Problem is, for CHAMPUS to come back we'd first need a complete overhaul of the nation's healthcare system to get costs down.

      The services have their backs against the health care wall just like everyone else.  I believe costs were set to consume more than 20% of the defense budget by 2015 (I got this from a service academy I attended in 2006 and the information is difficult to validate online or I'd provide a link).  If costs for the entire system do not come down dramatically then CHAMPUS is not do-able unless there are tax increases to pay for it.

      Isn't it wonderful how the current health care system and Bush's tax cuts are both threats to national security and the Republicans don't give a crap?  They claim to be defense hawks.  Whose defense, ours or China's?

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