|As Congress returned to Washington this week and began dealing with a heavy workload in July, the House/Senate conference committee formally began its work to come up with a final National Defense Authorization Act for fy2019. We say “formally” because staff members have been meeting to work on differences between the House and Senate bills for quite some time.
Their goal is to come to an agreement on one final bill, send it back to the House and Senate for a final vote of approval and send it to President Trump before the end of this month.
While passage of the bill before the end of the 2018 fiscal year is commendable TREA remains concerned about certain items in each of the versions of the bill.
The Senate version contains a provision that would eliminate the grandfathering in of those enrolled in TRICARE prior to January 1 of this year. The effect of this would be to raise TRICARE co-pays on those individuals. In other words, it would make them pay more for their healthcare. TREA opposes this.
The House version would require a two year Medicare Advantage demonstration project for TRICARE for Life (TFL) beneficiaries. We understand that there are certain areas of the country where military retirees who use TFL cannot see the doctors and other health care providers they have previously used because those providers are now in a Medicare Advantage group and cannot see patients who are not enrolled in Medicare Advantage.
However, we are concerned this demonstration project would be the beginning of an attempt to remove all Medicare-eligible military retirees from the existing TFL program and require them to purchase a Medicare Advantage plan for their secondary health care coverage – at their own expense. This would create an unnecessary financial hardship on a limited income and vulnerable population and would break faith with retirees who thought they earned their health care through their military career.
At this point TREA is opposed to the authorization and commencement of the demonstration project and any attempt to force over age 65 military retirees off of TRICARE for Life, and making them pay more for their health care.
However, if you – or someone you know – cannot see the health care providers you want because they can only accept Medicare Advantage patients, we would like to hear from you right away.
Finally, TREA supports parts of the Senate NDAA that honor the families of those who have fallen or died in support of this Nation and we want to make sure the Services always value and remember them. We know how important attendance at memorial ceremonies, access to cemeteries and access to entitled benefits are to surviving families.
We support a provision to give certain surviving spouses and other next of kin of those who die while on active duty or on certain reserve duty access to military installations.
We believe than any benefit provided needs to be for all eligible survivors of those who die while on active duty for their country. We oppose the provision in the House version of the NDAA that limits the benefit to only those whose service member died while in combat. No other Federal benefits are limited in that way.
The issuing of a military family member ID card to a remarried surviving spouse who acts as an agent for his/her children is a simple way to ensure that it can be used to make sure the children have access to their benefits no matter what installation their family may use. ID regulations, policies and procedures to limit eligibility to other programs are already in place for other specific beneficiaries i.e. TRICARE Young Adult participants.
No surviving family member should feel unappreciated or neglected. We support calling for a policy to consistently allow access to installations by other family members to be determined by the Secretary of Defense and the Service Secretaries.