I don’t know about anyone else, but I happen to think that this ought to be a serious campaign issue:
The Obama administration’s proposed defense budget calls for military families and retirees to pay sharply more for their healthcare, while leaving unionized civilian defense workers’ benefits untouched. The proposal is causing a major rift within the Pentagon, according to U.S. officials. Several congressional aides suggested the move is designed to increase the enrollment in Obamacare’s state-run insurance exchanges.
The disparity in treatment between civilian and uniformed personnel is causing a backlash within the military that could undermine recruitment and retention.
The proposed increases in health care payments by service members, which must be approved by Congress, are part of the Pentagon’s $487 billion cut 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.
Many in Congress are opposing the proposed changes, which would require the passage of new legislation before being put in place.
“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 Washington Free Beacon. “We can’t keep asking those who have given so much to give that much more.”
Administration officials told Congress that one goal of the increased fees is to force military retirees to reduce their involvement in Tricare and eventually opt out of the program in favor of alternatives established by the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare.
“When they talked to us, they did mention the option of healthcare exchanges under Obamacare. So it’s in their mind,” said a congressional aide involved in the issue.
Specifically, the proposal would impose five-year increases in Tricare premiums ranging from 94-345 percent. No, that is not a typo. And yes, the proposal is tremendously unfair, given that the sacrifices it imposes are so one-sided. Is it any wonder that so many concerns have been raised regarding the military’s ability to recruit and retain the best available personnel in light of the proposed massive hikes in Tricare premiums?
Memo to Republican candidates for president, Congress, governorships, state legislative seats, mayoral offices, aldermanic seats, and dogcatcher positions: You really ought to run campaign commercials regarding this issue. Lots of them. Flood the airwaves. This, after all, is yet another instance in which opposing bad policy makes for very good politics.