Politics

Obama Takes More Flak for Tricare Rate Scheme

By: Kenric Ward | Posted: March 3, 2012 3:55 AM
Ron Paul, Barack Obama and Cliff Stearns

U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, President Barack Obama and U.S. Rep. Cliff Stearns, R-Ocala | Credit: Gage Skidmore - Catherine Bebbington - republicanconscience - Flickr

President Obama's plan to boost health-care premiums for active-duty and retired military personnel continues to take heavy fire, with Ron Paul and a third Florida congressman wading into the fight.

To push more people into the private "insurance exchanges" designated under Obamacare, the administration wants to begin doubling or tripling charges for coverage in the military's Tricare program.

The price hikes, which would kick in after the 2012 elections, would affect 1.5 million active-duty personnel and up to 21.8 million veterans.

The plan has drawn flak from legions of critics, including veterans' groups, who note that unionized workers at the Defense Department are not subject to the rate increases.

Obama's move was even criticized by Texas Rep. Ron Paul, the libertarian-leaning Republican presidential candidate who typically applauds privatization and the dismantling of government programs.

“We have put our troops in harm’s way, and we must honor our promises," said Paul, a former Air Force physician and the only military veteran in the presidential race.

"Our troops have paid a heavy price these past 10 years," Paul said. "Over 5,000 have lost their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan, 40,000 have seen crushing injuries, and hundreds of thousands more suffer from brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder."

To block any assault on Tricare, Paul introduced HR 1092, the Military Retirees Health Care Protection Act, which prohibits the Department of Defense from increasing Tricare fees without congressional approval.

“Instead of cutting our veterans’ benefits, President Obama should truly support our troops by bringing them home to protect our borders and defend our country. Reunite them with their families and make sure they no longer play policeman in dangerous foreign civil wars," Paul said in a statement.

"Cutting the benefits of our veterans while we subsidize the security of other wealthy nations like Germany and Japan and play ‘world policeman’ makes no sense," he concluded.

Other GOP presidential hopefuls have been quiet on the Tricare issue.

Mitt Romney last year broached the idea of issuing private health-care vouchers to veterans.

“Sometimes you wonder if there would be some way to introduce some private-sector competition, somebody else that could come in and say, you know, 'Each soldier gets X thousand dollars attributed to them,'" the former Massachusetts governor said.

"Then they can choose whether they want to go into the government system or the private system with the money that follows them."

Shortly after Obama took office in 2009, the new president contemplated charging treatment of veterans' service-related injuries to their private insurance.

That switch was quickly shot down by angry vet groups. But now, three years later, Obama is back with a variation on the theme -- steep price increases for Tricare coverage.

Citing one example, a congressional report estimates that a retired Army colonel with a family currently paying $460 a year for health coverage would pay $2,048 under the new price schedule.

U.S. Rep. Cliff Stearns, a member of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, shared Paul's critique of Obama's latest gambit.

“While promising free contraceptives and blowing out the federal deficit with Obamacare, the president is increasing the cost of medical care for the men and women who earned it serving our nation," said Stearns, R-Ocala.

"We have an obligation to fulfill the promises made to those who served in the military," Stearns said.

Reps. Allen West, R-Plantation, and Tom Rooney, R-Tequesta, blasted the Obama plan in a Sunshine State News story earlier this week.

Speaking for the Veterans of Foreign Wars, National Commander Richard Eubank has repeatedly warned that any cuts to benefits would be "strongly protested" by his organization.

Congressional hearings on the Obamacare military restructuring are scheduled to begin later this month.



Contact Kenric Ward at kward@sunshinestatenews.com or at (772) 801-5341.

Comments (6)

Disenchanted
4:37PM MAR 4TH 2012
We are broke!

Instead of curbing the military-complex budget, Congress members from both parties want to increase the budget for more weapons, equipment, foreign aid, world policing, luxurious massive embassies, etc - kickbacks are a great incentive to vote for corporate contracts. They would rather reduce the domestic DEFENSE budget: the troops' pay, health care (caused by SERVING in the military), benefits and pensions.

On January 17th, Geithner quietly announced he had to raid the Federal Employees' Pension Fund to pay the bills. (Not the one for the Congressional, Judicial or Executive Branch elites - just the military and low-level civilians.) Congress quickly and quietly increased the debt ceiling. Problem is that China didn't want more of our debt, so they didn't "renew" all our T-Notes and the Federal Reserve had to buy our debt.

Solution to the lack of ready cash? Cut troops; cut troops' pay; cut troops' health care; issue tax refunds late by more than double the time; limit highway repairs; shut down the number of post offices instead of the hours and days opened. What's next? Social Security checks going out late? Medicare benefits cut? Stop paying medicare reimbursements to doctors, clinics and hospitals to the point they will no longer accept medicare patients?

When are the American citizens going to start demanding that our taxpayer money STAY in the United States? Before or after it directly affects your own pocketbook?
Ned Petrak
3:31PM MAR 4TH 2012
President Obama is showing his stupidity more all the time. Why should he expect those of us who served to protect his dumb *ss to pay more than we already do for our health care. FYI we don't get it free like we were promised.
Tough Love
7:00PM MAR 3RD 2012
Quoting ..."Citing one example, a congressional report estimates that a retired Army colonel with a family currently paying $460 a year for health coverage would pay $2,048 under the new price schedule."

Is this supposed to make me feel like the Change is unfair ..... when, if the colonel's family is below Medicare age, a comparable INSURED Private Sector worker luck to have a HEAVILY SUBSIDIZED EMPLOYER PLAN would likely pay $4,000+ annually, and Privately purchased insurance would likely cost $15k-$25K ?
Al
2:35AM MAR 6TH 2012
The healthcare provided to military and military retirees is part of the contract made with them as part of their service. It's not a handout. It's payment for service, as was agreed to by both parties (the service member and the government) when the member's service began.

To demand that military members or retirees now pay for their healthcare...the healthcare that was promised as part of the inducement the government (the citizens) offered to get people to join the military...is a break in faith, and a breach.

Military members and retirees have ever bit as much right to the taxpyer-funded medical care they were promised as you to to receive your paycheck at the end of each pay period. Your paycheck is part of what your employer gives you in return for your work. Taxing military members and retirees on their healthcare is no different than your employer deciding that he's going to pay you at a lower hourly rate, long after you did the work you're expecting to be paid for.
Disenchanted
4:46PM MAR 4TH 2012
Unlike the private sector worker, the retired colonel AND his family had to serve under the US military for at least 20 years (and not a day short). That colonel was on duty 24/7/365 for at least 20 years and his/her family had to abide by the same code. That is a small price for the taxpayers to contribute for darn near slavery wages for the men and women who risk their lives for the love of our country.
Ann Campbell
11:36AM MAR 3RD 2012
This move could affect our volunteer Military down the road. Those of us who served didn't necessarily do it for medical care but it turns out that it is very important to us now. I wouldn't encourage a young person to join up and risk his/herlife in the face of broken promises.

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