Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Pentagon Targets Health Care Costs

CNN Money has an interesting story on the increase in the cost of health care of active duty and retired military personnel (plus families).  Costs have risen 300% over the past decade.  The Pentagon is projected to spend $52.5 billion for health care and this has caught the big-wig’s attention.

It has also caught the attention of the Center for American Progress who notes that insurance premiums for military retirees is considerable less than what most others pay for health care programs.  They would like to see a gradual increase in enrollment fees, not cover the first $500 in medical expenses, and increase the cost sharing with Medicare. For military retirees who have a choice to get covered through the current employers, they also suggest basically forcing the retiree into the employer health care plan.

I will agree that I have a pretty sweet deal when it comes to my retiree health care coverage. But I do have a problem with some of the suggestions made by the Center for American Progress.  I do think we should see an uptick in out insurance premiums.  Heck, they haven’t gone up in 15 years.  Many others have seen their health care coverage rise pretty rapidly.  However, I don’t think we should pay what other have to pay.  I outlined my reasons in a previous post the other day (scroll to the bottom). In a nutshell, we defend this country with our lives. 

I also don’t think we should have to be forced onto another health care plan offered by our post-retirement employer. Sometimes, the fact that we can save a company money by not going on their plan can be a separator between a mil-retiree and a civilian applying for the job. Not only that, but a long time ago, the Pentagon and Congress made a “promise” to us to provide several things if we decided to make the military a career. Forcing us to use the post-retirement employer health care plan would be breaking one of those promises. Although breaking promises is kind of routine for many in Congress.

With the Pentagon projecting health care cost to be 10% of the annual budget by 2015, something does have to be done, of that I have no doubt.  But to do it on the backs of retirees is breaking faith with those who gave 20-30 years of their most productive time to serving this nation. There are other ways. Years ago, we received free dental care for the entire family, but that was not sustainable. So they put the families on a program called Delta Dental, charged us $18 a month, and put the families on the private sector.  This program was very cost effective for the family.  It got them better and quicker care. Why can’t we do something like that for the active duty?

Here is a suggestion. For the retirees, bump up the cost of the Tricare plan, say to $600 a year. This is still cheap enough for most of us to afford, we’ll just get a cheaper cell phone plan or cut back the number of cable channels.  For active duty, do the same thing with health care as done with dental care years ago. Charge a flat rate for each family member, pro-rated based on rank and number in the family.  The coverage would be the same but now the government is taking in a little money, but not breaking the promises made to the military member.

One last thing. I find it ironic that a liberal institution like the Center for American Progress would suggest pushing more of the cost of health care onto the military member while other liberal groups are fighting tooth and nail so the Wisconsin teachers can keep their nearly free health care and retirement plans. And teachers don’t defend this nation with their lives.

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