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TREA Legislative Update for October 6, 2006

Congress has gone home to campaign. When they come back the elections will be over and there will be many new players. But before they left Congress finished a number of important bills that people in this town did not think they would get to. These included the National Defense Authorization and Appropriation Bills for 2007 and the Homeland Security Appropriations Bill


National Defense Authorization Act passed by Congress
National Defense Appropriations Act for 07 signed into law
VA COLA passed
TRS Weekly Report

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1) National Defense Authorization Act passed by Congress- Congress kept saying that they would finish the NDAA before they left to campaign. And my goodness they did!!! As always there was good news and bad news in it.

First the good news:
• Congress stopped DOD from raising the enrollment fee and co-pays for retirees under the age of 65 in TRICARE Prime for the next year. They also stopped them from creating an enrollment fee for TRICARE Standard and higher co-pays for Retirees under 65 for the next year. This is very good news but we did expect it.
• What we were very unsure of was what would happen concerning the drug co-pays for all TRICARE beneficiaries (except active duty). This was a continuing fight here in Washington until the last minute. Finally, again we were successful. DOD cannot raise any of the Pharmacy co-pays from $3, $9 and $22 for the next year. We are still trying to convince DOD to completely eliminate the Mail Order $3 and $9 co-pays for generic and brand drugs to encourage beneficiaries to use the Mail Order system. We don’t know what will happen with that push but it is possible. (As you can imagine the fight for increased co-pays for next year has already started but right now we should celebrate this year’s success.)
• There were further major improvements made in the TRICARE Reserve Select program. At the beginning of the next fiscal year (October 1, 2006) there will only be one tier in TRS and one level of premium instead of this year’s 3 tier system. It will be 28% of the costs (just like the cost share in FEHBP). All drilling members of the Guard and Reserve will qualify for the program except those few who are federal civilian employees who qualify for FEHBP.

Now the bad news:

• The end of the SBP/DIC offset and the move up of the paid up provision of SBP did not survive the Committee. This is the fourth year that these provisions failed. We will have to try again.
• We had no further forward movement with concurrent receipt. We knew nothing much would happen until the Veterans Benefit Commission’s work was done but we hoped that IU 100% retirees would have received immediate total concurrent receipt but that too did not survive. IU retirees will receive full concurrent receipt in 2009.


2) National Defense Appropriations Act for 07 signed into law- The National Defense Appropriations Act for fiscal 2007 was signed into law last weekend. It was an impressive $447.6 billion. This means that all the DOD programs that are not included in the House’s Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Quality for Life and Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies’ jurisdiction are funded at the 2007 levels. The Military Quality of Life and Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Subcommittee’s Appropriations Bill (which includes among other things DOD Health Care) will be dealt with when Congress returns in November. In the meantime this year’s National Defense Appropriations Act includes a continuing resolution that pays for all of the federal government to run until the middle of November at last year’s budget level.

3) VA COLA passed- Last Friday and Saturday the House and the Senate both passed S2562 which authorized next year’s COLA for all affected VA payments (disability payments, DIC etc.) The amount of the COLA will not be determined by the Department of the Budget before the middle of October. Happily there is now no risk that the VA’s COLA implementation will be delayed.

4) TRS Weekly Report- Here is the TRICARE Reserve Select weekly count for September 29, 2006. (Please notice above that the 3 tier program will only run through the end of this fiscal year.)

As of September 29:
Tier 1 plans: 11,821
Tier 2 plans: 233
Tier 3 plans: 16

Total current TRS beneficiaries: 34,713