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TFL...Pony up?
Old 12-14-2007, 01:39 PM   #1
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TFL...Pony up?

Got this from MOAA today. For military retirees, this should be an indicator as to what you may be paying for healthcare in the future.

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TRICARE For Lifers: Pony Up?

The Task Force on the Future of Military Health Care met with the Defense Policy Board this week to discuss the outline of final task force recommendations to change the military health care system. The specifics of the recommendations will be unveiled at a December 20 press conference.

The task force was mandated by Congress in the face of repeated Administration proposals for major TRICARE fee hikes. Its 14 members were appointed by the Secretary of Defense, with half coming from inside and half coming from outside the Department. It is co-chaired by prominent health care economist Dr. Gail Wilensky and Air Force Gen. John D. W. Corley.

It's been evident for months that the task force will pretty much endorse the kinds of fee hike proposals that the Defense Department has been proposing. Those proposals include:

* Increasing TRICARE fees for retirees and survivors and their families who are under age 65,
* Establishing a multi-tier fee system based on retired pay, and
* Raising pharmacy copays for all beneficiaries.

The big news this week was the task force's indication that it also will recommend a new enrollment fee for TRICARE For Life beneficiaries.

Some have said for some time that it would only be a matter of time before this was proposed, since most of the Defense Department's rhetoric about rising health care costs focused on the expense of Congress' action to authorize TFL and pharmacy benefits to Medicare eligibles back in 2001.

But Congress and everyone else in the country certainly knew six years ago that TFL wasn't going to come cheap. It was authorized in recognition that these older beneficiaries had been unfairly disenfranchised from military health benefits. Congress agreed that wasn't fair and that their decades of service and sacrifice should earn them the best health care deal in the country.

The question for the task force and Congress now is, "If Congress thought that was true in 2001, what is it about having gone through six years of war that makes anyone think military retirees are somehow less deserving in 2007?"
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Old 12-14-2007, 01:59 PM   #2
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No flowers, no candy, no movie, just straight to the "main event." BOHICA.
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Old 12-14-2007, 02:14 PM   #3
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If by BOHICA. you mean FUBAR, I agree.
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Old 12-14-2007, 02:28 PM   #4
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This is pure "Government by Committee". Lets see the vote. This has been coming for a couple of years now -- which does not make it right.
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Old 12-14-2007, 02:29 PM   #5
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Mickey, I'm not in that program but it sounds concerning for my friends who are.

What exactly do you think it will turn into, in terms of additional dollars a year? I really dislike "take-backs" of any sort.
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Old 12-14-2007, 02:59 PM   #6
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What exactly do you think it will turn into, in terms of additional dollars a year? I really dislike "take-backs" of any sort.
Well, I have no clue. But if you spent the largest part of your adult life in service to this country, and you believe that part of your retirement benefits are access to the best medical care in the world at no additional cost, you may have a problem with this. Prior to age 65 a retiree qualifies for Tricare Prime at an annual cost of $230. Not bad. At age 65 you must sign up for Medicare (2008 cost $1157), but TFL is free as a medicare supplement. If your future cost jumps from $230 to $1157 plus you are now going to be charged for the "free TFL", the idea of having lifetime care at low cost begins to float away.

I realize that all of this may appear to be a pretty good deal on the surface, but many vets feel that they sacrificed a lot over a long period of time and the payout is getting less appealing as time goes by.
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Old 12-14-2007, 03:08 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by mickeyd View Post
Well, I have no clue. But if you spent the largest part of your adult life in service to this country, and you believe that part of your retirement benefits are access to the best medical care in the world at no additional cost, you may have a problem with this.
Strikes me as very unfair.

Of course, one could say the same for MC and SS when they hack that back after a life of contributions.
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Old 12-15-2007, 10:41 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by mickeyd View Post
For military retirees, this should be an indicator as to what you may be paying for healthcare in the future.
For those of you who aren't veterans, this is your harbinger.

TRICARE could have raised the copays instead of raising the premiums. A $25 or even $40 copay (instead of $12) will immediately lighten TRICARE's load, although I agree that it could also spawn a whole plague of unintended consequences. Higher copays would have put more money directly in the hands of the doctors, who are treated almost as harshly by TRICARE as they are by Medicare. I have a difficult time believing that any of the higher TRICARE premiums will trickle down to the doctors... or to the "customer care" call centers.

Hawaii's best orthopedic surgeon told me that the reason there are only 47 other orthopedic surgeons among 1.2 million Hawaii residents is that both TRICARE and Medicare equate Hawaii's cost of living to be roughly that of Arkansas, and that's the rate the doctors get. Take it or leave it. Many have been voting with their feet, although they're probably not moving to Arkansas either.

When I have my ACLs replaced in 2010 I'm going to try to do it the "right" way, via TRICARE. But if I get the same crap I got the first time I was fumbling around trying to figure out the problem, or if I encounter more bureaucracy, then I'm gonna do it my way and pay full retail. My only debate will be whether I do it at Queen's or Bumrungrad.

If you're not a veteran, you still have a problem-- the treatment being dished out to the veterans today will be coming your way in just a few more years.
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