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Health-care costs for retirees and military are a hefty price tag for Pentagon |The Tennessean

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doeriver Donating Member (677 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon May-09-11 07:46 AM
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Health-care costs for retirees and military are a hefty price tag for Pentagon |The Tennessean
Health-care costs are a hefty price tag for Pentagon
Secretary Gates stated two years ago that Health care is eating the department alive,
5:43 AM, May. 9, 2011

WASHINGTON A military built for fighting wars is looking more and more like a health-care entitlement program.

Costs of the program that provides health coverage to some 10 million active duty personnel, retirees, reservists and their families have jumped from $19 billion in 2001 to $53 billion in the Pentagons latest budget request.

Desperate to cut spending in Washingtons time of fiscal austerity, President Barack Obama has proposed increasing the fees for working-age retirees in the decades-old health program, known as TRICARE. After years of resisting proposed increases for the military men and women who sacrificed for a nation, budget-conscious lawmakers suddenly are poised to make them pay a bit more for their health care, though not on the presidents terms.

The current fees, unchanged in 11 years, are $230 a year for an individual and $460 for a family. Thats far less than what civilian federal workers pay for health care, about $5,000 a year, and what most other people in the U.S. pay.

Obama is seeking a fee increase of $2.50 per month for an individual and $5 per month for families, which approaches the current price of a gallon of gasoline. Future increases starting in 2013 would be pegged to rising costs as measured by the national health-care expenditure index produced by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which projects 6.2 percent growth.

Health care is eating the department alive, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said bluntly two years ago.

The explosive expense of health care rivals what the Pentagon shells out to buy fighter aircraft, submarines and high-tech weapons, and is about half of the $118 billion that the Obama administration wants in the next budget to fight the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Lawmakers debate

Rep. Howard Buck McKeon, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, backs Gates proposal to raise fees for working-age retirees in the next budget, and he has the support of the committees top Democrat, Rep. Adam Smith of Washington state. But McKeon, R-Calif., rejects the plan to link increases in 2013 and beyond to the health-care expenditure index. He wants to tie any future increases to military retirees cost-of-living adjustment, which this year was zero...

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