An article in NY Times this a.m. indicates the Administration is worrying about the cost of military healthcare. So, let's see: They entice you to sign up; promise free healthcare (which is gone already), and now they wanna reduce TRICARE, cause it costs too much. To even discuss this during a war is revolting. Article says it's political suicide to try to alter it; I hope so. That would make GWB and his boys so hypocritical and unbelievable. Going around to military bases, making speeches, and then taking away stuff to feed the corporations. Hmm, is that like social security?
Here's a little of the article:
Tricare for Life is one of a long list of assurances, like prescription drug benefits for the elderly, that Washington is making to American citizens at a rate of more than $1 trillion a month. The government's unpaid-for promises grew by more than $13 trillion last year, a sum larger than the nation's 2004 economic output, and they now surpass $43 trillion, said David A. Walker, comptroller general of the United States.
Last year "was arguably the worst year in our fiscal history," said Mr. Walker, who runs the Government Accountability Office, the budget watchdog of Congress. "It seems clear that the nation's current fiscal path is unsustainable."
Washington, instead of making painful choices, is paving that path with borrowed money and hundreds of billions of dollars of deficit spending.
Tricare, the overall military health plan, has nearly nine million beneficiaries. Its only cost to participants is an annual fee, no higher than $460 a year, covering all veterans and their families. Tricare for Life, which supplements Medicare, is free. It covers military retirees over 65, their spouses and, in some cases, their former spouses, for as long as any of them live.
The number of military retirees is rising very slowly, toward 1.8 million by decade's end, because many veterans of World War II and Korea are dying. But Tricare for Life payments by the Pentagon will more than double, to $13 billion a year in 2015, from $6 billion last year. The money comes directly out of the Pentagon's budget for active-duty soldiers.
Tricare for Life is the biggest part of a package of benefits for military retirees and their families that has been passed by Congress since 2000 and that will cost $150 billion from now until 2015.
"It's costing mightily and it's in competition with some of the weapons systems," Senator Warner said.
But he said that having a first-class health plan for retirees was a crucial selling point for recruiting and retaining soldiers. "There's no sense in buying modern weapons," he said, "unless you've got healthy, intelligent people who can operate them and are willing to stay there."
The cost of military health care is now bigger than the Army's budget for buying new weapons, the Navy's budget for new ships and submarines, or the Air Force's budget for new planes. "The benefits we've added over the last six years now exceed the services' entire aircraft and ammunition procurement budgets," said Representative Duncan L. Hunter of California, the Republican chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.
Pentagon officials are warning Congress that something has to give.
The cost of military health care is "the single most daunting thing that we deal with out there today," said Gen. John P. Jumper, the Air Force chief of staff. "The price of Tricare, what it's costing us to sustain that, is going up and up."
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld is "very concerned with the growth" of new benefits and entitlements "that accrue principally to those who've left service, especially the retired community," said David S. C. Chu, the under secretary of defense for personnel. "The nation adopted them for good reason, but they are causing a significant cost issue for future defense budgets."
The House Armed Services Committee has tried to take Tricare for Life out of the Pentagon's budget and lay it at the Treasury's doorstep. The Treasury refused.
Tricare for Life was enacted after veterans' groups fought for a decade to fulfill a pledge made to generations of raw recruits. As health care costs soared in the 1990's, military retirees over 65 rebelled when forced out of the military health care plan and into less-generous Medicare coverage. They reminded Congress that military recruiters had told enlistees for decades that their medical needs would be covered for life.
The issue became known simply as "the promise." The veterans' groups waged an intense, emotional and ultimately successful campaign.
Tricare for Life is "a national obligation," said Steve Strobridge, director of government relations for the Military Officers Association of America, which represents 370,000 dues-paying members. "If the military is going to entice people to serve for decades and go to war, that carries with it certain obligations that must be fulfilled."