Friday, December 21, 2007

Pentagon Group recommends High increases in medical fees for Tricare

In another slap to veterans and military retirees, the Bush Administration is going to again attempt to dramatically raise fees for prescription medicines for generics they want them to pay 15 dollars for generics, this at a time when drug stores, WalMart, Walgreens etc are charging 4 dollars for a months supply, so why should the retirees even want to pay the Army hospitals 15 dolars for the same medicine? This is a apparent attempt to force military retirees to quit using their earned medical benefits from the military and force them into medical plans of their second careers, which most retirees avoid due to having military benfits, is this another way to thank veterans, career veterans no less, DR Chu should be smiling today.

Panel recommends jump in Tricare fees
By Rick Maze - Staff writerPosted : Friday Dec 21, 2007 5:52:09 EST

A Pentagon task force is recommending dramatic increases in pharmacy and health insurance expenses for military families, retirees and their families, arguing that higher fees may not cover rising costs but could have other benefits, including discouraging people from using their earned benefits.
Where a military family member pays $9 for a 30-day supply of a brand-name drug at a retail pharmacy and just $3 if the drug is a generic, the task force wants the fees increased to $25 for brand-name drugs and $15 for generic.
For military retirees and families covered by Tricare Standard, the task force proposes increased enrollment fees that would begin in 2008 at $5 a month and rise to $10 a month by 2010. There is no enrollment fee today. Annual deductibles would be based on the amount of retired pay the family receives, ranging from $350 to $470 in 2008 and ending up at $490 to $960 in 2011. The current family deductible is $300.
The fee and deductible costs could be even higher, because the task force recommends its proposal be adjusted to keep pace with the annual increase in medical costs, which generally runs at two to three times the rate of inflation. As a result, the maximum deductible could be as high as $1,300 if health care costs continue to rise at current rates.
Recommendations from the Task Force on the Future of Military Medical Care are surprising only in that the large increases could be phased in over four or five years in an effort to cushion the blow.
A $10 monthly fee for Tricare for Life is also recommended, an amount the task force admits has no direct bearing on the Pentagon’s expenses for providing medical care but is intended to follow a philosophy that military medical benefits “should be generous, but not free,” according to the task force report.
The Defense Department has been trying for several years to increase Tricare enrollment fees, co-payments and deductibles, as well as co-payments for using retail pharmacies, but has been blocked by Congress. The 2008 defense authorization bill passed by Congress last week included a one-year prohibition on fee increases. President Bush is expected to sign that bill next week. The ban would not prevent the Bush administration from including the fee increases in its 2009 defense budget request.
In its final report, delivered to Defense Secretary Robert Gates early Thursday, the task force said, “Americans everywhere are paying high costs for health care. While military retirees deserve a more generous benefit because of their sacrifices and years of service, relatively modest increases in out-of-pocket costs will not only help stabilize the system and make it more accountable but will also be looked upon as being appropriate by the American taxpayer.”
Medical care costs are becoming a huge part of the annual defense budget. In 2001, medical costs were $19 billion, but in 2007, the defense health care budget was more than $39 billion. The fastest-growing part of the health budget is pharmacy costs, where spending quadrupled between 2000 and 2007, the report said.

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