The Senate bill came as a separate effort to roll back the fee increases to the military's health care system, Tricare, as approved by the House on Friday as part of the $643 billion National Defense Authorization Act.
The vote was 299 to 120, with 16 Republicans joining the opposition and 77 Democrats voting in favor.
Voting in favor of the act, U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Tequesta, a U.S. Army veteran, said Friday he was “deeply disturbed” by proposed hikes.
“Asking our troops and military retirees to shoulder the burden of Washington's overspending is simply wrong, and I will strongly oppose any effort by the president to break our commitments to our veterans by pricing them out of the health care benefits they earned and deserve,” Rooney responded in an email.
On Thursday, Rubio and Lautenberg introduced S 3203, which would place more affordable caps on health insurance enrollment fees, deductibles, and pharmacy co-payments for military retirees enrolled in the Department of Defense’s Tricare system.
“This bill would give veterans on Tricare greater assurances that their costs will not spiral out of control, beyond their means to pay for them,” Rubio stated in a release.
“Military retirees who rely on fixed incomes usually don’t have the ability to go out and find new jobs to pay for increased Tricare costs. This effort will bring more predictability to help them budget for their health care needs.”
The Lautenberg-Rubio “Military Health Care Protection Act of 2012” is expected to protect all 9 million in the military health care system, particularly the veterans.
“A tough fiscal climate is no excuse to balance the budget on the backs of our nation’s military retirees and their families,” Lautenberg stated in a release.
“Those Americans who serve in our military do so much to protect us -- the least we can do is protect them against excessive health care costs.”
The bill would cap the percentage of increase in certain military health care fees in any given year at the percentage pay increases for retirement pay.
Under the plan proposed by the White House, coverage could double or triple for veterans.
The hike is a result of the Budget Control Act, which required $259 billion in cuts to the defense budget. The plan is to shift about $13 billion in health costs from the Pentagon to retirees over the next five years.
Those enrolled in the Tricare Prime program would see annual fees for retired families -- currently $520 -- jump to as much as $820 starting Oct. 1 and to $2,048 within five years
The fees would be based on military retiree’s pay amount.
Those in the Tricare Standard program would be hit with new annual enrollment fees of $70 for an individual and $140 for family coverage, and slight increases to their deductibles.
The Senate bill has been supported by 21 military and veteran groups, including: Military Officers Association of America, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, American Legion, Fleet Reserve Association, and the National Military Family Association.
“We’re grateful for Senator Lautenberg and Senator Rubio’s leadership in introducing this bill to protect uniformed services beneficiaries from dramatic fee increases for their military Tricare coverage,” Norb Ryan Jr., president of the Military Officers Association of America, stated in a release.
“Repeated proposals to raise their health care fees by up to $2,000 a year have been extremely unsettling to the military community. Senator Lautenberg and Senator Rubio’s bill would restore a much-needed sense of stability for this core career retention incentive.”
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