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“Resistance Is Futile”

Another Washington austerity themed report to be borne by those most vulnerable..... it never ends.....

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released a report on Jun 16, 2014 titled, “Approaches to Reducing Federal Spending on Military Health Care,” which discusses several ways the Department of Defense (DoD) can save money in the $52 billion TRICARE health program.  The TRICARE health program, is “an integrated system of military health care providers and regional networks of civilian providers.”  According to the CBO, nearly 10 million people are offered health care through the program -- roughly 3% of the American population.

This report is the latest in a series the CBO has published over the years recommending ways to slash costs to the TRICARE program.  Each new report is more alarmist than the previous one.  For example in the Jun 2009 report titled, “The Effects of Proposals to Increase Cost Sharing in TRICARE,” they state:

“In general, health care costs—military and civilian—have grown more rapidly than prices in the economy as a whole.  Inflation in the overall economy, as estimated by the gross domestic product index, has averaged 2 percent to 3 percent per year 2001..... civilian plans....have increased by more than 7 percent per year, on average, during the same period”
Sounds reasonable there but now take a look at their most recent filing on costs:
“The cost....has increased rapidly as a share of the defense budget over the past decade, outpacing growth in the economy, growth in per capita health care spending in the United States, and growth in funding for DoD's base budget.  Between 2000 and 2012, funding for military health care increased by 130 percent, over and above the effects of overall inflation in the economy.”
Duh.  In the 2009 report the CBO provided statistics which compares military health care costs with rising civilian health care costs, then just 5 years later, they infer the budget is exploding beyond control.  Projections did not change suddenly between 2009 and 2014, so where did the 130% all of a sudden?  Hint:  These guys at the CBO are definitely paying attention to the political winds.  The austerian crowd (Borg) has settled in and is thoroughly in control in Washington.  To alarm Congress you toss in newly concocted large, incomprehensible numbers -- which CBO delivers.

For some perspective on dates, Congress expanded TRICARE eligibility for military retirees under a program called TRICARE For Life (TFL) in 2001, which also was the date the country engaged Afghanistan in conflict.  Before this date, military retirees age 65+ and their family relied on Medicare for health care.  This change effectively raised the number of enrollees, naturally raising the cost.  Use the 2000 date like in their 2009 report, rates of increases sound reasonable.  Use the 2001 date, like in their 2014 filing, costs are growing out of control.  

According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation Development (OECD), the US spends 17.7% of GDP on health care.  “The US spends two-and-a-half times more than the OECD average of $3339,” the OECD states.  Between 2009-2011 per capita increases were 7% per year, which is much higher than the inflation rate.  

The CBO report was written as if the military health care system was on an island without outside forces tugging at its costs.  In fairness, they did show us this graph.  It shows military health care spending for 2014 to be around 9%, a full 8.7% below national numbers.  Hardly an exploding situation.

The 2014 CBO report states they did not look at DoD health care procurement.  If you dont look at procurement costs, why bother?  We can only guess the CBO has been assimilated into the collective so procurement is definitely out.  I venture to so they chose to ignore procurement because there would be a lot of scary things to report back.  What they would have reported back is health care costs are so much higher for the US than the rest of the world because, for one, we as country do not negotiate price on prescription drugs.  Most governments of the OECD countries negotiate prices with pharma companies to get lower cost outcomes for their populations, with one major exception, the US.   Either way you look at it we pay way too much for prescription drugs and CBOs ignores this fact.  The US expects to spend $403 billion on prescription drugs in 2014.
The CBO report ventures to explain the Afghan and Iraq health care costs were paid for under separate contingency funding and really does not count towards TRICARE funding.  A kind of one off which should not be taken seriously and kinds of says, “move along, there is nothing here.”   Earth to CBO:  soldiers who were in combat theater did make it back home.  War scars will last for years.

After reading this lengthy report one gets the impression the government, after all these years, refuses to acknowledge the true cost of war.  There is not a single government led report that I know of which outlines the cause/effect of the wars on the combat men and women and their families.  The “collective” creates reports, like from the CBO, to steer people away from the truth.  The wars did not stay overseas, they came home with them.  Ratesof suicide, mental illness, stress, alcohol abuse, drugs, etc.... among vets have risen since 2001 due to increased deployments.   These problems came home to where the veteran lived.

So, what are the recommended military health care savings in the CBO report?  

1 Better management of chronic diseases.  

2 More Effective Administration of the
Military Health Care System

3 Increased Cost Sharing for Retirees Who Use TRICARE

Recommendations 1 and 2 were given one to two paragraphs to give the report a balanced look.  A few millions of dollars would be saved.  Phew!  Recommendation 3, the one that shifts war costs to retired vets, was given a whole lot more text space, with many options to shaft veteran retirees.  Recommendation #3 saves the DoD billions of dollars, just what the Borg “collective” is looking for.

Since true war costs are not known the CBO and Borg “collective” can scheme to squeeze the military retiree.  In their mind the wars are almost done so the government can absolve itself, kind of like a Catholic confessing his sins to a priest to cleans the past.  The lengthy CBO report is really going after the approximately 800,000 military retires below the age of 62.   As far as the Borg "collective" is concerned, the military retiree should pay for the wars the government borrowed money to execute.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Cut Heath care for the troops (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    callawar, rapala

    Just don't touch the no bid contracts.

  •  Seems to me that the best way to slash TriCare (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    FG, Gooserock, Horace Boothroyd III

    costs is not to embark upon foreign adventurism that leaves a lot of maimed troops, exposed to all sorts of environmental toxins and other physical stressors, psychic stress, with chronic conditions.

  •  First of all, the congressional budget is a (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Horace Boothroyd III

    thing of smoke and fiction. It is an exercise in public relations to generate press coverage and propagandize the folks back home. The congressional budget, unlike state budgets, has no legal import. That is, it is not law and is not required to be followed or implemented. Thus, the congressional budget office is akin to municipal planning departments, putting together endless comprehensive plans that are little more than wishful thinking on paper.
    However, the CBO products are a little more. They are designed to validate and perpetuate the fundamental deception that Congress has no control over the currency -- that dollars have to magically appear before Congress can authorize an expense. That's not true, but it is a fiction dear to Congressional critters because it enables them to argue with a straight face that funding denied is not their fault. (Much as Christie is now claiming that funding denied to Hoboken was caused by the federal Treasury not sending all the five billion promised bucks). Deprivation turns out to be a much more effective tool for the extortionists, since, when they don't pay, there's no trail to follow, as there is in bribery.
    That Congress is desperate to get the electorate back under control has not registered as widely as it should. So, funds will be withheld until morale improves.

    Obamacare at your fingertips: 1-800-318-2596; TTY: 1-855-889-4325

    by hannah on Tue Jan 21, 2014 at 05:02:20 AM PST

  •  Decreasing drug costs requires major changes in (0+ / 0-)

    the law. CBO usually doesn't recommend stuff like that unless specifically asked. They are accountants, not legislators.

  •  Ugh (0+ / 0-)
    The 189 facilities affected serve over 130,000 visitors a month to handle inquiries related to billing, provider or personal information changes, and claims questions. According to TRICARE officials, all of these matters can be handled equally as easily—and much more cost-effectively—over the phone or online. The closure will not affect overseas TRICARE service centers, nor will it have an impact on benefits or health care services.

    “The change will not – let me repeat that – will not affect any TRICARE medical benefit or health care service,” Pentagon spokesman Colonel Steve Warren said in a statement. “What it will do is allow the department to save $250 million over the next five years, allowing TRICARE to invest in more important services.”

    Currently, there are no plans to add staff to the call centers, as tests conducted by TRICARE in anticipation of the closing have demonstrated that the call centers and website can handle the expected volume increase, which officials expect to be minimal due to the various toll-free numbers and online options available.

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