TFL on the Chopping Block?

Apr 01 2009

Published by at 9:00 am under Analysis/Editorial

Always a concern, but no danger yet

BotB Verdict

Average Number of Times Received Daily at MOAA: 4


Summary

One of the most common source of viral emails in our community has to do with health care and benefits. It’s a natural topic and one of great interest to everyone since it affects our bottom line and sparks emotions from every subset of the military community. The most prevalent subject recently has been Tricare For Life, the program put in place in 2001 to act as a supplemental insurance to Medicare for retirees. Each year the message is dire, and fighting cuts in coverage or additions of premiums is always near the top of MOAA’s legislative agenda.



The Most Common Iteration

ALERT-TRICARE FOR LIFE ON THE CHOPPING BLOCK

I don’t know how many of you partake of the Tri Care for Life program but here is a very interesting note on the subject. Seems as though our President Elect has placed a priority on cutting it out of the budget as a means to provide funding for those things he promised during the campaign. In any case, on page 189 of the Congressional Budget Office report, see the note below on how to get to that spot, there is a strong recommendation to eventually eliminate the program as it is too expensive. I would ask that you contact your elected officials and register your strong opposition to the elimination of this program. Just another move to slight those of us who dedicated much of our adult lives to the defense of our country. Thanks for listening.

The following has been added to the Congressional Budget Office Web Site (www.cbo.gov): a. Budget, Options, Volume 1: Health Care http://www.cbo.gov/doc.cfm?index=9925

For those who have never opened one of these web sites from OMB :
1. double click on the above URL
2. click on PDF
3. click on the binoculars
4. do a search for TFL
———————————————————————————————-
“Now here it is folks and I will guarantee if you sit around on your behind and do nothing about it as they bring these options forward this coming year, you will lose one of the best healthcare benefits that the Medicare eligible retired mil itary have. It is short of the promises made that we fought so hard for back in the late 90s and early 2000s but it is still the best healthcare program that anyone in the United States has, bar none.
People who are professionals always look for the channel of least resistance when it comes to cutting money out of the Federal and DOD budget. I can tell you this straight on, military retirees are one of those channels of least resistance noted for sitting around, doing nothing, and waiting for ole Joe to do it for them. You had better wake up. Your medical benefits are prime target. If you lose them, you have nobody to blame but yourself. Let me repeat that … you have nobody to blame but yourself.
The way to secure your benefits is to write to your members of Congress and to keep writing and writing and writing. ONCE IS NOT ENOUGH!! Keep repeating the above statement until you are blue in the face.
Now I’m going to make one more statement to all of you younger people out there who are not yet eligible for Tricare for Life. HEALTH CARE WILL EVENTUALLY BECOME THE DOMINATING FACTOR IN YOUR LIFE. Remeber that . . . . it will impact you big time with the utmost in cruelty unless you are fortu nate enough to die from a heart attack . . . or get run over by a truck.
Now, I am going to attach AGAIN exactly what OMB has in store for military retirees using TFL. This source is directly from OMB and is not something that I have dreamed up. They are telling you exactly what they are going to do with your benefits. If you do nothing, this is what you will get.
The service organizations will put up a fight and are aware of this and will put up a fight but, they will need your help and can’t do it by themselves. I hope this makes it clear as to what you can expect if you do nothing.
To show you how stupid these professionals can be at times if you will read the attached document closely you will see that in spite of the MTFs (Military Treatment Facility) need to get patients back to keep their doctors busy and the hospitals from going to clinic status, these people from OMB would employ a means to keep retirees from using MTF facilities by charging them a fee for services. How dumb can you get.
Even if you are an Obama lover, and believe that changeth cometh, TFL option from OMB will not go aw ay. They need the money they spend on you for other programs for people who produce nothing but votes to keep their boss in office.”


Origins

The email was picked up and posted by the Greater San Diego chapter of The Retired Enlisted Association. After this email began circulating widely (a quick google search will show how extensively the email was posted on conservative and military blogs), TREA took the unusual and much appreciated step of issuing a statement that the original email ‘urgently needs to be corrected’. The statement, found here, includes the following summary:

1) At the present time, no proposals to cut Tricare benefits have been made by President OBama;
2) At the present time, no proposals to cut Tricare benefits have been made by anyone in Congress.

The correction also includes this paragraph, which is meaningful and full of wisdom:

Military retirees need to stick together to protect themselves and their earned benefits. But that needs to be done in a non-partisan way. It is self-defeating to go around accusing President Obama of something that is simply not true. The same is true of making accusations about Congress that are not true. That will just make enemies of those whose help we may need in the future.


MOAA Response

From MOAA’s Government Relations department:

MOAA is well aware of the budget options put out last year by the Congressional Budget Office (not the Obama Administration).

It’s important to understand that CBO puts out a list of options (not recommendations) for every Congress to illustrate what kinds of things legislators can do if they wish to either cut back spending or increase spending in different areas.

This is certainly not the first time that TFL fees have been included in the CBO list. The previous list also included an option for TFL cutbacks, and it ended up going on the shelf, just as most of the options have ended up in the past.

That said, we’ve been saying for years that it’s only a matter of time before the Pentagon or Congress seek to start shifting more costs to TFL beneficiaries.

In our opinion, the most likely thing to happen at some point is to start charging an annual enrollment fee for TFL, rather than implementing the kind of complicated charge system envisioned in the CBO proposal.

But there’s no telling at this point whether anything like that is going to be considered seriously this year, and the simple inclusion of an option for this in the CBO list doesn’t make that any more likely.

We’ll get a better idea when the new president submits his detailed budget to Congress around the first of May. The initial budget numbers released in February didn’t indicate any specific proposal. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has for some time expressed support for increasing TRICARE fees for retirees under 65.

It’s possible that some kind of TRICARE fee proposal may be included in the President’s budget, but there’s no way to know for sure.

MOAA has engaged our members to try to protect against that possibility.

The February edition of Military Officer magazine included tear-out letters asking House and Senate leaders to avoid imposing health cost increases on beneficiaries before DoD has exhausted a long list of other available options to hold health costs down without hurting beneficiaries.

We also sent out a special MOAA alert asking members to email President Obama to urge against renewing the misguided TRICARE fee hike proposals of the last three years and instead to work with MOAA and The Military Coalition to find ways to reduce military health costs in ways that don’t penalize beneficiaries.


Motivations

Preserving TFL viability is one of the most important missions all military associations undertake, and this viral message had the very good intention of putting as much pressure on Congress to make sure it remains strong. Unfortunately, there was an error in the original email and, as we have seen before with the VA private insurance issue, the correction or update never gets out ahead of the original when there is passion and energy at the grassroots. In the meantime, the message was revised and reinterpreted as it passed through multiple senders, and ultimately got translated into ‘Obama is attacking your health care’, which is not accurate at all – at least so far, as of April 1.


Further Reading/Tools

Original Email Rebroadcast by GSD Chapter of TREA (PDF)
TREA Correction and Retraction
Steve Strobridge’s As I See It article on the issue.


You Can Help

Remember that forwarding a message you read but are unsure of without checking the available resources helps contribute to the Bilge. Help us battle it, and if you haven’t seen us write one of them up, email it to us here.

4 responses so far

4 Responses to “TFL on the Chopping Block?”

  1. Richard W. Milleron 27 May 2009 at 8:25 pm

    TRICARE FOR LIFE

    I AM A RETIRED VIETNAM VET WITH 29 PLUS YEARS OF SERVICE IN THE AIR FORCE. I’M WRITING TO YOU TO REQUEST THAT YOU NOT SUPPORT ANY PROPOSED LEGISLATION THAT WOULD ALTER THE PRESENT MEDICAL PROVISIONS NOW PROVIDED THROUGH TRICARE FOR LIFE.

    MEDICAL CARE THAT WAS PROMISED TO CERTAIN VETERANS AND RETIREES HAD BEEN REMOVED AS A BENEFIT WHICH WAS FINALLY REINSTATED BY LEGISLATION IN 2001. THE OBLIGATION TO CONTINUE THIS BENEFIT IS BASED ON A PROMISE MADE BY OUR COUNTRY TO PROVIDE MEDICAL CARE FOR LIFE FOR THOSE DEDICATED MILITARY WHO SERVED THEIR COUNTRY FAITHFULLY AND HONORABLE TO PROTECT ITS FREEDOMS.

    MY UNDERSTANDING IS THAT THE CONGESSIONAL BUDGET OFFICE (CBO) HAS DRAFTED PROPOSED LEGISLATION THAT WOULD SERIOUSLY REDUCE THE BENEFITS NOW BEING PROVIDED.

    I REQUEST YOU TAKE A STAND AGAINST ANY SUCH LEGISLTAION THAT WOULD DILUTE THIS MUCH NEEDED BENEFIT. ANY DILUTION OF THE PRIME CARE FOR LIFE PROGRAM WOULD PRESENT SERIOUS PROBLEMS FOR MANY VETERANS AND REFLECT BADLY ON THE COUNTRY’S LEADERS WHO WOULD RENEGE ON A PROMISE MADE TO THOSE WHO HAVE WORKED TIRELESSLY TO PRESERVE THIS COUNTRY’S FREEDOMS.

    Richard W. Miller
    Colonel, USAF Retired

  2. Matthew LoFiegoon 28 May 2009 at 6:13 am

    Colonel Miller,

    Thank you for your comment, you are feeling the same sort of frustration many retirees are. Just to clarify CBO does not draft legislation nor have they proposed legislation. CBO does publish a list of options or ways to reduce or increase the budget in certain areas. Included in those recommendations were changes to TFL.

    Please know that MOAA is doing everything we can to improve TRICARE For Life, we hope that the only changes you do see in the future are positive ones. We wholeheartedly agree that any increases in health care premiums/copays/deductibles would be diluting the retirement benefit and could have an adverse affect on recruiting and retention.

    I am glad to hear how passionate you are about TFL, have you contacted your elected officials and discussed this them? If not just follow the link below and enter your zip code to contact your Representative and Senators.

    MOAA’s CapWiz page

  3. Jonas Pomaleson 29 May 2009 at 6:31 pm

    To my Congressman:
    My understanding is gthat the Congressional Budget Office has drafted a proposed legistlation that would seriously reduce the benefits of TFL to us the military retired.

    I am a former Vietnam Vet with 30 years of active duty in the Marines and I am requesting that you take a stand against any such legislation that would dilute this urgently needed benefit to us the military and to our families.

    Any of the lowering of the benefits of the prime care for life program would present serious problems to us the retired miltiary men and women who have served faithfully when called.

    This would be a bad reflection on our country’s leaders who would renegade on a promise made to those before us and those of us still living with our families. Let us try to continue to preserve our country’s freedoms. Do not cut on our budget or health programs; afterall, there are still a number of front line conflicts in the world today and possibly a third one with Iran or Korea.

    How can you or our President think of cutting the military budget or our healthcare programs?

    Very respectfully yours,
    Jonas Pomales
    Capt. USMC/Ret
    Semper Fidelis

  4. Lynne Lashlee, COL USAR (Ret)on 30 Jul 2009 at 12:22 pm

    I continue to read letters that argue for not reducung Tricare benefits. However, I wonder if that request is clear? Neither Tricare benefits nor an increase in cost for those benefits
    should be considered to provide Health Care in the legislation that will be passed in the fall 2009.

    Most people went into the Services because they wanted to keep this country safe. The pay has never been commensurate with industry. However, because of a promise made by this country for lifetime free health care, a modicum of security made the military members feel safe. That is now a continuing fight.

    At this time, TRICARE follows the benefits and the frequency of the benefits of MEDICARE. So, unless that is kept in the forefront changes in MEDICARE will be emulated by TRICARE.

    With the frequency of general comments from the administration of decreasing dollars from the MEDICARE budget, the above information underscores the importance of MOAA and other associations to keep a sharp eye on the relationship between TRICARE benefiits and MEDICARE benefits as well.

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