I have to admit, I’m a little nervous. When I write something, I fully expect people to disagree with me and to call me an idiot after reading my “analysis.” But I rarely expect to anger people. My latest article has the potential to really anger a lot of people. About 6 million of them.
I’ve got an op-ed at The National Interest on the need to reform Tricare, the military healthcare system.
The numbers, however, do not allow for continued inaction. Increasing health-care costs in DoD’s budget mean less money for bombs, bullets and training. Fielding a military but supplying it with obsolete equipment and minimal training is the definition of a hollow force. Sensible reforms, like the ones proposed in the administration’s FY2013 budget request, will not break faith with military retirees and their families. But Congress must acknowledge that Tricare is merely a policy, part of a larger military compensation package that seeks to recruit and retain the best men and women for military service. It was never intended to become an inalienable right.
Due to space constraints, I had to omit things that I fear might lead some readers to question my support for military retirees. I want to go on record with some things here.
- I do not believe Tricare should be abolished or that retirees should not have access to subsidized healthcare in some form.
- I do believe military retirees should contribute more than they currently do. They should expect to pay, on average, at least 25% of their healthcare costs as was intended by Congress when it established Tricare in 1996.
- Enlisted veterans should not pay as much as officers. Tricare enrollment fees should be tiered based on retirement pay.
- Working age retirees who earn over a certain amount each year (including retirement pay), say $150,000, should not be allowed to use Tricare. They should be forced to use their civilian employer’s healthcare plan. Once they stop working, they can join Tricare for Life.
- Reforms must grandfather some people into the current system.
- Tricare enrollment fees should be indexed to inflation for the general healthcare sector, which should go a long way toward stabilizing DoD’s costs.
- I do believe that we are dangerously close to viewing veterans as a privileged, entitled class of people. This I fear is corrosive to civil-military relations and widens the gap between those who serve and those who don’t. The challenge is fighting for and receiving the care veterans deserve without becoming entitled.
Andrew Bacevich used a great quote from FDR in a recent book review that I wanted to crib, but didn’t. After General MacArthur broke up the “Bonus Marchers” camp in Washington, DC, Roosevelt let it be known that “no person, because he wore a uniform, must therefore be placed in a special class of beneficiaries.”
Anyway, read the whole thing here.