Debate: Are TRICARE Benefits Sustainable?

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Carl DeSalvatore is a retired reservist of the U.S. military and receives his health care coverage under TRICARE.

Despite benefiting from the plan, he says it isn't realistic.

"My background is in taxes and accounting and, financially, it's just not sustainable from my viewpoint," DeSalvatore said.

TRICARE provides health care coverage for members of the military, retirees and their families.

DeSalvatore and his wife also worked for the federal government, so they are eligible for the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program.

DeSalvatore can pay a premium rate of $430 a month for this plan. Or, under TRICARE Prime, DeSalvatore can receive the same coverage for $460 a year.  

In 2012, the Defense Department has budgeted $50.3 billion for health care. But at the same time, Congress plans to drastically reduce the size of the defense budget over the next 10 years.

In short, something has to give and what is going to give, is the debate. Representative Bill Owens, who is against raising fees, says the way TRICARE works is the problem.

"If you can make them more efficient, then you would not necessarily need to increase premiums," Owens said.

"I think that's where we need to focus, is how do we make these programs more efficient."

Owen's Republican Congressional challenger, Matt Doheny, who is also against the premium increases, says the problem is the drastic cuts to the defense budget.

"I'm dead set against the half trillion dollars of cuts," he said, "in particular, the defense department budget is going to try to raise the amount of co-pays and just the annual fees that people of TRICARE have grown to depend on."

DeSalvatore says that just like anything else, in tough times, it's all about making sacrifices for the greater good.

"Times change," he said. "The cost of medical care has gone up exponentially and we need to pull together. Not because we want to, but because we have to."

Only the first stage of a lengthy legislative process that will decide whether TRICARE fees will increase has been completed. House members speculate that a compromise will be decided in September.
 

Friday, October 31, 2014
, Watertown, NY

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