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Tricare, Military Pensions and Fairness
Old 10-29-2010, 05:46 PM   #1
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Tricare, Military Pensions and Fairness

This CNBC story and the letter that MOAA sent to them after the airing of this report should be interesting to anyone that is retired military now or will be in the future. What many folks do not understand is that sacrifices were made to those on active military service and future military members may be negatively affected by any change in the current programs. The MOAA letter does an excellent job in addressing the many errors that the reporters made in their report.

If the American people do not want a professional military, they should at least advise those who are currently serving so they can make other plans.

I received what follows in an email from MOAA.

Quote:
Missing the Point on Military Health Fees
We continue to see media reports parroting Pentagon statements about military health costs and citing comparisons between what military retirees vs. civilians pay in cash fees for their coverage.
MOAA insists that focusing strictly on the cash fee comparison retroactively denigrates the value of the decades of service and sacrifice that constitute the real - and pre-paid - premium required of career servicemembers to earn their families' health coverage in retirement.
CNBC presented a particularly distorted piece on October 25, which prompted MOAA President VADM Norb Ryan to write a letter of protest to CNBC president Mark Hoffman.
MOAA members can express their concerns to CNBC by writing Mr. Hoffman at 900 Sylvan Avenue, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey 07632 or calling CNBC Viewer Services at 1-877-280-4548.
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Old 10-29-2010, 08:36 PM   #2
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I received the same email from MOAA earlier today. I have not viewed the CNBC piece yet but plan to tomorrow. I expect to take appropriate action.

I value MOAA for all the stuff it keeps track of. I often (but not always) use their canned letters to send to my 2 Senators and 1 Representative. (Not always because I rarely disagree with MOAA; more often I want to state things more forcefully than their letters do.)
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Old 10-29-2010, 11:32 PM   #3
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I'm not speaking for the military with the following personal opinion-- this is just coming from a guy who's been pretty fortunate with which end of the gun barrels he's been on and who happens to have a fairly healthy family.

As a military retiree, our Tricare Prime premium for a family of two adults and a teen is $38.34/month. Not only is it $38.34/month but it's been that way for over eight years.

We pay roughly a $12 copay at the doctor's office and $3-$9 prescription copays. We get treated so much better at civilian drugstores (compared to waiting over an hour at military pharmacies to get them for free) that I cheerfully pay the prescription copay.

In 2009 the grand total of all our family medical & dental expenses, including uninsured dentist's checkups, vanity presbyopian contact lenses, and the aforementioned prescription copays, was $1360. If we'd been financially hurtin' then I could've cut that back to about $800.

Which means that our 2009 grand total annual non-discretionary medical expenses could have been as low as $1500. For three people. For an entire year.

(Yeah, yeah, I know, so why aren't there more military ERs, somebody should write a book, etc.)

I won't speak for enlisted or JO retirees but I don't think it's unreasonable to ask O-4 & above military retirees to pay triple the medical costs we're paying now. You can tell Norb Ryan I said so. He was a great admiral and he's done a lot of good things for MOAA, but on this issue I think he's pushing back a little too hard and should save his ammunition for the battles worth fighting.
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Old 10-30-2010, 08:05 AM   #4
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I'm not speaking for the military with the following personal opinion-- this is just coming from a guy who's been pretty fortunate with which end of the gun barrels he's been on and who happens to have a fairly healthy family.

As a military retiree, our Tricare Prime premium for a family of two adults and a teen is $38.34/month. Not only is it $38.34/month but it's been that way for over eight years.

We pay roughly a $12 copay at the doctor's office and $3-$9 prescription copays. We get treated so much better at civilian drugstores (compared to waiting over an hour at military pharmacies to get them for free) that I cheerfully pay the prescription copay.

In 2009 the grand total of all our family medical & dental expenses, including uninsured dentist's checkups, vanity presbyopian contact lenses, and the aforementioned prescription copays, was $1360. If we'd been financially hurtin' then I could've cut that back to about $800.

Which means that our 2009 grand total annual non-discretionary medical expenses could have been as low as $1500. For three people. For an entire year.

(Yeah, yeah, I know, so why aren't there more military ERs, somebody should write a book, etc.)

I won't speak for enlisted or JO retirees but I don't think it's unreasonable to ask O-4 & above military retirees to pay triple the medical costs we're paying now. You can tell Norb Ryan I said so. He was a great admiral and he's done a lot of good things for MOAA, but on this issue I think he's pushing back a little too hard and should save his ammunition for the battles worth fighting.
I agree. I just think they should use annual increases of a fixed percentage rather than jacking up the rate 3 or 4 fold in one year.
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Old 10-30-2010, 03:41 PM   #5
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In 2009 the grand total of all our family medical & dental expenses, including uninsured dentist's checkups, vanity presbyopian contact lenses, and the aforementioned prescription copays, was $1360.
DW and I paid over $2,000, but we both got new glasses that year (nearly $900) and I had a broken tooth that didn't come cheap.

All things considered, the system works pretty well. I'm very curious to see how it changes when I turn 65.
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Old 10-30-2010, 03:51 PM   #6
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I won't speak for enlisted or JO retirees but I don't think it's unreasonable to ask O-4 & above military retirees to pay triple the medical costs we're paying now. You can tell Norb Ryan I said so. He was a great admiral and he's done a lot of good things for MOAA, but on this issue I think he's pushing back a little too hard and should save his ammunition for the battles worth fighting.
You should consider that reserve and Guard retirees even 0-4 and above
(disclaimer: includes me) might only receive 10 -25 % of a normal retired
pension even after 30 years and multiple deployments while Tricare premiums remain the same no matter who pays them. Under your suggestion I see up to 50% of a persons pension going to Tricare. Not a pleasant thought.
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Old 10-30-2010, 04:02 PM   #7
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... we both got new glasses that year (nearly $900) ...
OT, that seems like a lot. I get prescription glasses from Zenni Optical mail order over the web at $11 ($7 monovision polycarbonate 1.57 index plus shipping) and up (for nicer frames, higher index optics, bifocals/progressive).
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Old 10-30-2010, 06:14 PM   #8
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OT, that seems like a lot. I get prescription glasses from Zenni Optical mail order over the web at $11 ($7 monovision polycarbonate 1.57 index plus shipping) and up (for nicer frames, higher index optics, bifocals/progressive).
I agree completely. It definitely IS a lot.

We use our local shops (Lenscrafters or Pearle). We both have progressive bifocal lenses. We like the titanium frames that will return to their normal shape even after bending, so that's a factor, and we get the ones that have matching sunglass clipons with magnetic attachment points. We also are pretty nearsighted, so there is the high index lens.

I'm quite sure we're paying too much, but I haven't found a better option yet.
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Old 10-30-2010, 06:54 PM   #9
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I'm quite sure we're paying too much, but I haven't found a better option yet.
Well, maybe you have now found a better option. Take a look at Zenni. I have titanium half-rim frames from them for $16, and they have tinted clip-ons for $5, or any of a variety of tinted lenses. I know they have progressives, but I have no personal experience with them. I prefer to buy several monovision glasses good for various distances.
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Old 10-30-2010, 06:58 PM   #10
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Great idea. Thanks for the suggestion.
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Old 10-30-2010, 08:45 PM   #11
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You should consider that reserve and Guard retirees even 0-4 and above
(disclaimer: includes me) might only receive 10 -25 % of a normal retired
pension even after 30 years and multiple deployments while Tricare premiums remain the same no matter who pays them. Under your suggestion I see up to 50% of a persons pension going to Tricare. Not a pleasant thought.
As a matter of fact I have considered that. I'm sleeping with a Reservist myself, so preachin' to the choir will get you nowhere.

Civilians will consider our Tricare premiums in the context of what the rest of the country is paying. Complaining about premiums being a large percentage of a small defined-benefit pension (with a COLA!) would be regarded by CNBC the media as devious obfuscation when the actual dollars of that premium amount are disclosed.

The rest of the country is happy to thank us for our service right up until the point that they find their appreciation includes health insurance for under $40/month. You want a more realistic number for military retiree health insurance, then consider that Tricare Retired Reserve premiums are being set equal to the actual cost of the coverage, which is $408/month for member-only in 2011 and $1020/month for families in 2011. And those "actual costs" are based on data from 2008-09.

http://www.ausn.org/NewsPublications...ober-2010.aspx

Suddenly the "Nords triple" plan doesn't seem so harsh, does it?
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Old 11-01-2010, 09:45 AM   #12
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Well, maybe you have now found a better option. Take a look at Zenni. I have titanium half-rim frames from them for $16, and they have tinted clip-ons for $5, or any of a variety of tinted lenses. I know they have progressives, but I have no personal experience with them. I prefer to buy several monovision glasses good for various distances.
I agree with the try Zenni option, although rimless titanium progressives can cost about $50 ( the HORROR!). Out of the 15 pair my family has bought over the last three years, two were sub-standard and I tossed them. My savings were over $1500 using the $150-300 cost of local purchases.
BE SURE TO GET AN ACCURATE PD MEASURMENT.. especially for bi-focals and progressives.
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Old 11-01-2010, 09:58 AM   #13
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The rest of the country is happy to thank us for our service right up until the point that they find their appreciation includes health insurance for under $40/month.
Suddenly the "Nords triple" plan doesn't seem so harsh, does it?
Don't really care. This was/is a benefit promised for years and I will not
stand for the country balancing its budget on the backs of the military.
When I see an across the board effort to reduce ALL entitlements I'll happily join ranks, but not until then. That includes farm subsidy's, corporate welfare, congressional pay raises, military hardware boondoggles (billion dollar aircraft and three billion dollar submarines that don't add squat to the fighting strength, but are disguised job bills) and the like. Pointing to the pittance of Tricare in the whole universe of federal spending and asking us to be the first to volunteer is insulting.
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Old 11-01-2010, 10:08 AM   #14
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Nords,
While I may agree in principle that Military retirees could pay more, I think the question is when do you start. When I entered the service, one of the selling points was 'Free Health Care for Life'. In fact this was the mantra for most of my time in the service. Towards the end, say the last five years, the government changed their recruiting pitch, and started telling folks, basically, that there were no guarantees. I believe this falls in the same category as SS. People make plans based on what the government says it is going to do. To change that after the individual has retired is not right. Legal, sure, right, no. I also believe it falls into the 'Take it from the rich' camp. The fact that someone can afford something they have earned, does not mean you should be able to means test them and force them to give it up. Just one guys opinion.

I also agree with HearDoc. When the social wellfair programs are slashed, when the congressional and presidential boondoggles cease, when the congressional barber shop, bank, post office, elevator operator, airline and the list goes on, are canceled, then come talk to me.
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Old 11-01-2010, 12:23 PM   #15
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Don't really care. This was/is a benefit promised for years and I will not
stand for the country balancing its budget on the backs of the military.
When I see an across the board effort to reduce ALL entitlements I'll happily join ranks, but not until then. That includes farm subsidy's, corporate welfare, congressional pay raises, military hardware boondoggles (billion dollar aircraft and three billion dollar submarines that don't add squat to the fighting strength, but are disguised job bills) and the like. Pointing to the pittance of Tricare in the whole universe of federal spending and asking us to be the first to volunteer is insulting.
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Nords,
While I may agree in principle that Military retirees could pay more, I think the question is when do you start. When I entered the service, one of the selling points was 'Free Health Care for Life'. In fact this was the mantra for most of my time in the service. Towards the end, say the last five years, the government changed their recruiting pitch, and started telling folks, basically, that there were no guarantees. I believe this falls in the same category as SS. People make plans based on what the government says it is going to do. To change that after the individual has retired is not right. Legal, sure, right, no. I also believe it falls into the 'Take it from the rich' camp. The fact that someone can afford something they have earned, does not mean you should be able to means test them and force them to give it up. Just one guys opinion.
I also agree with HearDoc. When the social wellfair programs are slashed, when the congressional and presidential boondoggles cease, when the congressional barber shop, bank, post office, elevator operator, airline and the list goes on, are canceled, then come talk to me.
Preaching to the choir with me on that one, too. Let's get down off our podiums for a minute and get analytical.

I think there's room for compromise between your positions and $40/month healthcare.

You can bitch about broken promises all you want until taxpayers realize that going from $40/month to, say, $120/month is still far below what most of them are paying anyway. There will be no sympathy from the electorate or the elected. This is not a situation calling for tactics of harrumphing like Sam the Eagle and standing firm on principles. This is a situation where it costs very little to make a very big step toward balancing DoD's budget and protecting the benefits that really count, like DB pensions with COLAs. Just like Congress with Social Security vs Medicare, DoD doesn't give a crap about the pension expenses-- it's the healthcare expenses that are breaking their budget.

I don't think the situation is going to improve by insisting that the rest of the nation make the first move.

But hey, that's just my personal opinion. I think Norb Ryan has done a great job through outreach & education, so his latest attack on CNBC is more likely to generate backlash than sympathy. I doubt that anyone like Bud Day is going to step forward again to take the Supremes and Congress back to the negotiating table.
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Old 11-01-2010, 08:59 PM   #16
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Preaching to the choir with me on that one, too. Let's get down off our podiums for a minute and get analytical.

I think there's room for compromise between your positions and $40/month healthcare.

You can bitch about broken promises all you want until taxpayers realize that going from $40/month to, say, $120/month is still far below what most of them are paying anyway. There will be no sympathy from the electorate or the elected. This is not a situation calling for tactics of harrumphing like Sam the Eagle and standing firm on principles. This is a situation where it costs very little to make a very big step toward balancing DoD's budget and protecting the benefits that really count, like DB pensions with COLAs. Just like Congress with Social Security vs Medicare, DoD doesn't give a crap about the pension expenses-- it's the healthcare expenses that are breaking their budget.

I don't think the situation is going to improve by insisting that the rest of the nation make the first move.

But hey, that's just my personal opinion. I think Norb Ryan has done a great job through outreach & education, so his latest attack on CNBC is more likely to generate backlash than sympathy. I doubt that anyone like Bud Day is going to step forward again to take the Supremes and Congress back to the negotiating table.
This is an issue that has been a big topic in emails between me and some of my retired military friends.

I finally got around to watching the CNBC video and found that it contained some factual inaccuracies (eg., they don't really understand what "Tricare for Life" means) but couldn't get all that lathered up about it.

I don't want to give up any of the benefits I earned through a career in the military, but I think that, given the deficit, it's inevitable that I will. I, too, was promised "lifetime health care" an incentive for staying in for a career. But a lot of public employees (teachers, for example) were promised good pensions and discounted health care in retirement in exchange for their modestly paying careers. The economics of cities and counties are dictating that their promises won't be fully met. On the Federal level, I think the same will happen to both civilian and military retirees.

When I retired from active duty (28 years), I initially went on a USHFP plan (which is a subset of Tricare, much like an HMO but not exactly the same as Tricare Prime.) I didn't like it. I then switched to my wife's employer's plan and used Tricare as a supplement, although it rarely paid me anything. I stayed on my wife's plan until she retired and we then went on Tricare Standard as our primary plan with MOAA's MEDIPLUS as a supplement. Tricare Standard has no premiums although the deductibles and co-pays are higher than with Tricare Prime. We rarely had enough expenses to be able to get any payment from MEDIPLUS. But the TRICARE deductibles and co-pays were not exorbitant and it was worth it to me to pay a little more to have more flexibility in which providers I could see and to not have to get referrals to see specialists.

Now I am on MEDICARE and Tricare is a supplement. My wife is still on Tricare as a primary plan as she is a bit younger than I am.

I understand both the "lifetime health care" promise and the economic realities we now face. I also understand that my situation may be more favorable than, say, the retired E-6 with 4 kids who doesn't have a high-paying second career. But I agree with Nords that it's a tough sell to "Joe the Plumber" or anyone else struggling to meet health care costs in a tough economy that we retired military folks should get the good deal we currently get indefinitely.
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Old 11-03-2010, 03:33 PM   #17
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This is an issue that has been a big topic in emails between me and some of my retired military friends.

I f But a lot of public employees (teachers, for example) were promised good pensions and discounted health care in retirement in exchange for their modestly paying careers.
These were negotiated contractual agreements through unionized bargaining units and reducing them will also be negotiated. I didn't have a union for my protection.

I understand both the "lifetime health care" promise and the economic realities we now face. . But I agree with Nords that it's a tough sell to "Joe the Plumber" or anyone else struggling to meet health care costs in a tough economy that we retired military folks should get the good deal we currently get indefinitely.
I don't have to sell anything to anyone. If they change the program, so be it, but I'm not going to agree to volunteer to be first. Let the DOD take the moral hit for reducing benefits. To ask us to acquiesce to it , given all of our sacrifices, when others don't or won't is absurd. I'm happy to join a general cost cutting program but I'll be damned if I'll be the first to step out into the line of fire.
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Old 11-03-2010, 04:02 PM   #18
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Sorry,
When Joe the Plumber picks up his M-16 and steps i harms way for his country, I will understand the comparison. Joe the Plumber ask the military to protect him from the evils of the world, and they do. Just because they live through it is no reason to take their earned benefits. In the interest of fairness, the military retiree should give up the pension also, it's just not fair for them to have what Joe the Plumber does not.

My wife taught in a private school. No pension plan. Should the teachers in the public school that put up with all the cr@p give up their pension so she can have some in the interest of fairness? For me, when government gets rid of all the other entitlement programs that people get just for living here, all the pork projects and discretionary spending, hand outs to banks, airlines, auto companies and others, then they can come after SS and Military benefits. My guess is they would not have to!
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Old 11-03-2010, 04:20 PM   #19
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Damn Rustic, you're just down the road from me! When we gonna fish Livingston?
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Old 11-03-2010, 04:57 PM   #20
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MartyB,
Just saw your profile, we are close, sent you a msg. By the way congratulations on the reserve retirement.
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