An Obama administration plan to have military families and retirees pay much more for healthcare, while unionized civilian workers' benefits are untouched, is causing a major rift in the Pentagon, reports The Washington Free Beacon.
The proposal is part of the defense budget's cuts. Several congressional aides say the move may be part of the administration's efforts to increase enrollment in Obamacare’s state-run insurance exchanges.
The proposed increases in healthcare payments by service members, which must be approved by Congress, are part of the Pentagon’s $487 billion cuts in spending. It seeks to save $1.8 billion from the Tricare medical system in the fiscal 2013 budget, and $12.9 billion by 2017, according to the Beacon.
Under the plan, the Pentagon would save by targeting under-65 and Medicare-eligible military retirees through a tiered increase in annual Tricare premiums that will be based on yearly retirement pay, according to the Free Beacon.
Significantly, the plan calls for increases on premiums, eventually rising to more than three times the current levels. As an example, a retired Army colonel with a family currently paying $460 a year for healthcare will pay $2,048.
But more concerning is the military's fear that the rift between uniform and ununiformed personnel could undermine recruiting efforts and retention.
“We shouldn’t ask our military to pay our bills when we aren’t willing to impose a similar hardship on the rest of the population,” Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee and a Republican from California, said in a statement to the Beacon. “We can’t keep asking those who have given so much to give that much more.”
Administration officials reportedly told Congress that part of the goal is to force retirees to reduce their involvement in Tricare and eventually use alternatives under Obamacare.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey addressed the matter last week.
“I want those of you who serve and who have served to know that we’ve heard your concerns, in particular your concern about the tiered enrollment fee structure for Tricare in retirement,” Dempsey said. “You have our commitment that we will continue to review our healthcare system to make it as responsive, as affordable, and as equitable as possible.”
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