The Tricare Prime annual enrollment fee for retirees rose by $30 a year in fiscal 2012 for an individual, to $260, and $60 a year for family enrollments, to $520.
Those increases, the first since 1995, became sensitive issues. The Obama administration has tried to increase Tricare fees further, but Congress has balked. One irony is that health-care programs for other federal employees — some of which cover autism therapy — start at roughly seven times the cost of Tricare.
“One of the things we ought to do is . . . to bring Tricare standards up to make sure they meet the needs of everybody. I don’t disagree with that,” Coburn said. “But the other thing we ought to do is we ought to pay for it.”
“All it would take is $24 a year by our Tricare Prime [beneficiaries] to pay to make sure that the people with disabilities and the people with autism have the appropriate therapies and they are covered under Tricare,” Coburn said. Taking the money from operations and maintenance will mean “less flight time, less drill time, less shooting time, less preparation time to go out and be a war fighter,” he said.
Gillibrand didn’t work with Coburn last week on a payment amendment. Instead, she said, “This is $45 million for one year just to get the treatments in place for these families. In one year’s time, we will have more accountability and transparency on what the real cost is. This is just an estimate.”
In 1992, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) introduced a $25 million amendment to have the Pentagon conduct breast cancer research. Twenty years later, it has become a more than $200 million-a-year program covering research on dozens of diseases.
We must consider how many more disease therapies Tricare will cover — and who will pay for them.
For previous Fine Print columns, go to washingtonpost.com/fedpage.