MOAA sees these large fee hikes as a significant breach of faith with those who have already completed arduous careers of 20-30 or more years in uniform.
Alexandria, VA (PRWEB) February 14, 2012
The Military Officers Association of America (MOAA) responded to the White House’s Feb. 13 release of FY2013 budget proposals, pledging to resist what MOAA calls “disproportional” increases in military healthcare fees and reductions in military force levels.
MOAA President, Vice Admiral Norb Ryan, Jr. USN-Ret., took particular exception to Pentagon proposals that impose significantly higher enrollment fees and pharmacy copayments for military retirees and their families.
The new budget plan would dramatically increase enrollment fees and deductibles for retired military families younger than age 65. Some will see nearly a fourfold increase over five years: from $520 per family to $2,048. After 2017, annual increases would be tied to a medical inflation index.
In addition, it would impose a new, tiered annual enrollment fee of up to $475 by FY2017 for retirees and family members age 65 and older, for whom the military TRICARE plan serves as second-payer to Medicare.
“MOAA sees these large fee hikes as a significant breach of faith with those who have already completed arduous careers of 20-30 or more years in uniform,” Ryan said. “The Administration and Congress already imposed a 14-percent increase last year, and Congress passed legislation stipulating that future fee hikes shouldn’t exceed the percentage increase in military retired pay.
“These new increases, coming on top of last year’s changes, are a classic ‘bait and switch’ maneuver that would raise beneficiary fees by as much as $1,500 a year or more, depending on retired pay,” Ryan continued.
MOAA is particularly concerned that the new proposal envisions “tiered” fees that would vary depending on the retired servicemember’s retired pay.
“This kind of means-testing approach is grossly inappropriate for health coverage that’s earned by a career of service,” Ryan said. “No retired President, Secretary of Defense, member of Congress or any other federal retiree pays means-tested health fees.
“Throughout a service career, military people have been told that their decades of service and sacrifice constitute the steep up-front premium that will earn them military health coverage in retirement. Now, after the fact, they’re proposing to change a service-based program to a need-based system that may be appropriate for welfare recipients, but is a gross insult to those who already have completed decades of service to their country,” Ryan said.
Ryan also took exception to the budget proposal to raise pharmacy copays from $12 to $34 in brand name prescriptions.
“MOAA disagrees strongly with the stated purpose of these increases to ‘move closer to market rates.’ A military career is supposed to earn top-tier health coverage, not merely something on the order of the civilian median. How can we expect to induce top-quality people to accept the arduous conditions inherent in a service career if all they have to look forward to is the same kind of benefit they could earn as a civilian, without worrying about deploying every other year?” Ryan asked.
Ryan expressed additional concerns about potentially precipitous reductions in military force levels, saying much of the budget changes are driven by potential cost savings rather than mission requirements.
“For the last decade, we’ve forced military families to bear 100 percent of our national wartime sacrifice, with force levels woefully inadequate to the missions imposed on them,” Ryan said. “As a result, we’ve compelled them to deploy time after time, with too little ‘home time’ between deployments. Now, even though we’re still at war, we’re looking at very significant force cuts. We understand the desire to cut spending, and some reductions may be warranted now that we’re out of Iraq. But let’s not forget that the force size was insufficient to start with. We need to focus on meeting mission requirements and not just on achieving some arbitrary budget savings,” Ryan stated.
Another budget proposal would establish a special commission to review the military retirement system and recommend changes that would be governed by special rules similar to those governing base reduction and closure (BRAC) plans.
Under the BRAC methodology, Congress would have to give the commission proposals a yes or no vote, with only limited time for debate and no opportunity for amendments.
“MOAA has no problem with doing studies to review possible retirement changes,” Ryan said. “But the military retirement system is the single most important incentive to serve a military career. It’s especially important to note that when Congress passed cuts to military retirement in 1986, the changes had to be repealed a decade later after they harmed retention and readiness.
“All of the more recent retirement proposals have envisioned much more significant cutbacks than the 1986 plan, which MOAA believes ignore the hard lessons of history. If we’re to consider major changes, they should be able to survive the scrutiny of the normal legislative process. The last thing we need is to stampede to some budget-driven outcome on an issue of this importance to national defense,” Ryan concluded.
Military Officers Association of America (MOAA) is the nation’s largest officers association with 370,000 members from every branch of service, including active duty, retired, National Guard, Reserve and former officers and their families and survivors. MOAA is a nonprofit and politically nonpartisan organization and an influential force in promoting a strong national defense. MOAA represents the interests of service members and their families in every stage of their lives and careers, and for those who are not eligible to join MOAA, Voices for America’s Troops is a nonprofit MOAA affiliate that supports a strong national defense. For more information, visit http://www.moaa.org
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