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Lawmakers move to block Tricare fee hikes

Congressmen Chet Edwards and Walter Jones to the rescue!

Hal Cleveland, USN, (Ret.)

     "United We Stand"

Lawmakers move to block Tricare fee hikes

By Rick Maze - Staff writer
Posted : Monday Jan 22, 2007 12:34:59 EST

A bill preventing the Defense Department from increasing Tricare premiums for reservists, retirees and their families was introduced Friday by two champions of military benefits.

Reps. Chet Edwards, D-Texas, and Walter Jones, R-N.C., introduced the Military Retirees Healthcare Protection Act just days after Pentagon officials renewed their calls for increasing Tricare premiums, deductibles and co-payments for some beneficiaries to deal with the military’s rising health care costs.

Edwards and Jones said they believe there are alternatives to making beneficiaries pay more.

Edwards, chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee on military construction and veterans affairs, said, “I believe that keeping our promise of quality, affordable health care for military retirees is the right thing to do and the smart thing to do. Our nation has a moral obligation to keep our promises to those who have kept their promise to defend our nation. It is the smart thing to do because we cannot attract the best and brightest to fight our war on terrorism in the years ahead if they see us breaking faith with those who served in years past.”

Jones, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, said the bill “is about offering protection for the men and women who are willing to protect our nation from its enemies, and keeping promises to those who have promised to put themselves in harm’s way when called upon.”

“The families of our armed forces deserve consistent health care benefits,” Jones said.

Last year, the Bush administration proposed to double and triple Tricare premiums for “working-age” retirees, those under age 65, but Congress blocked the move, ordering more study. That has not stopped the Pentagon from pursing higher fees, which is why Edwards and Jones made a point of introducing their bill before the administration sends its fiscal 2008 budget to Congress.

The bill, HR 579, prohibits increases in enrollment fees for Tricare Prime and Tricare Reserve Select, in pharmacy co-pays and in co-pays for inpatient care unless Congress specifically approves such fees. The bill was referred to the House Armed Services Committee.