MOAA Appalled at Defense Leaders’ Health Cost Misrepresentations

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A DOD memo totally discredits TRICARE cost claims. “All the time defense leaders were claiming retiree health costs were exploding, the costs were actually going down,” Vice Adm. Norb Ryan, President of MOAA said.

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MOAA has asserted all along the blame for any cost growth lies more with DOD’s own inefficiencies than with retirees. Now we can add budgeting incompetence and misrepresentation on top of that, Vice Adm. Norb Ryan, President of MOAA said.

"The Military Officers Association of America (MOAA) is appalled that a new Pentagon reprogramming request to Congress shows defense leaders have been misrepresenting its health care costs in a campaign to dramatically raise fees imposed on military beneficiaries," Vice Adm. Norb Ryan, President of MOAA said.

“For months, the Defense Department (DOD) has defended its proposals to punish beneficiaries with thousands a year in higher TRICARE fees by claiming fast-rising TRICARE costs are ‘eating us alive,'” Ryan said.

“But the reprogramming memo the Pentagon just sent to Congress indicates those claims were flatly untrue, and DOD leaders should have known it.”

The new reprogramming request says military health care will cost $708 million less than budgeted for FY2012. “These funds are excess to Defense Health Program requirements,” it says, “and can be used for higher priority items with no impact to the program.”

The memo indicates the FY 2012 defense budget estimate assumed private sector care cost growth of 12.9% for active duty and 8.5% for all other beneficiaries. But “through the first six months of FY2012,” it acknowledges “[costs actually] are growing at historically low rates of 0.6% for active duty and -2.7% for all other beneficiaries."

MOAA calls this memo a “smoking gun” that proves Pentagon efforts to blame beneficiaries for cost growth to be patently false.

“All the time defense leaders were claiming retiree health costs were exploding, the costs were actually going down,” Ryan said. “And this isn’t a one-time thing. The DOD health budget had a surplus of over $500 million for FY2011 as well.”

“MOAA has asserted all along the blame for any cost growth lies more with DOD’s own inefficiencies than with retirees. Now we can add budgeting incompetence and misrepresentation on top of that,” Ryan said.

MOAA is urging its 377,000 members to communicate their outrage to their legislators and Administration officials.

In contrast, Ryan said he’s grateful to House Armed Service Committee members who sent a letter of protest to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta requesting a briefing and explanation from the DOD regarding the reprogramming request.

Signed by a bi-partisan group of 23 legislators, the letter states, “We…heard from DOD that our refusal [to authorize dramatically higher TRICARE fees]…was endangering the sustainability of TRICARE programs. We have heard that ‘TRICARE is crippling’ the DOD. This does not appear to be the case if DOD has a $708 million surplus in FY2012…We do not understand how DOD can justify a request to raise fees on a class of people whose costs to the department are actually decreasing.”

The signers demanded further explanations about how this happened and what other funding priorities are more important.

“We believe there are serious health issues that our military service members and military retirees are currently facing that are of the highest priority,” the letter asserts. “We urge the DOD to use all or a portion of these funds to address the issues of military retiree healthcare, research and treatment for post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury, and address the military suicide epidemic that we are currently facing.”

“MOAA agrees strongly with this letter,” Ryan said. “The dramatic discontinuity between DOD’s rhetoric and their cost figures totally discredits any case they’ve tried to make about blaming beneficiaries for their own lack of effective oversight.”

Ryan said MOAA supports a provision in the House-passed Defense Authorization Bill that would require the Defense Department to consolidate military health care oversight under a unified medical command.

“The first thing that’s needed to control costs,” he said, “is a single point of oversight for health care budgeting and delivery. Under the current system, there are three separate service health programs and multiple contractors competing inefficiently for budget share.”

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About MOAA:
Military Officers Association of America (MOAA) is the nation’s most influential association of military officers. MOAA is a nonprofit and politically nonpartisan organization with 370,000 members from every branch of service, including active duty, National Guard, Reserve, retired, former officers and their families and survivors. We are a powerful force speaking for a strong national defense and representing the interests of military officers at every stage of their lives and careers. For those who are not eligible to join MOAA, Voices for America’s Troops is a nonprofit MOAA subsidiary that supports a strong national defense. To learn more, visit http://www.moaa.org.

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