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Obamacare for troops, vets?
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Pete Souza/White House
So men and women who faced death at Fallujah or Kandahar or Desert Storm are now to face death panels at home? That’s the upshot of the administration’s plans for military health care.
A proposal unveiled at the Pentagon last week would herd our veterans and military personnel and their families into the imminent bureaucratic nightmare of ObamaCare.
Right now service personnel and veterans get their health insurance through the military’s plan, called Tricare. Its generous benefits and low premiums are part of the price we pay for attracting and keeping the best and brightest in an all-volunteer military — along with other benefits, like covering 100 percent of college tuition and full pension on retirement, regardless of age.
But now the Obama Pentagon is pushing to hike those Tricare premiums some 30 percent to 70 percent over the next year, and then more than doubling them again every five years thereafter. In some cases, service personnel who now pay $460 a year for health care will be looking at a bill six times that amount — with little or no salary increase to make up the difference.
Retired veterans won’t even have that help.
“To the ObamaCare bureaucrat, the wounded veteran will be just another patient and another number” — Arthur Herman
And with premiums rising with the force and acceleration of a Minuteman missile, many if not most military families will have to join the millions of other Americans who’ll be forced out of their current insurance and corralled into ObamaCare’s state-supervised health-care exchanges.
Yes, military health-care and benefit costs are a runaway train — the fastest-growing part of the entire defense budget. As former Defense Secretary Robert Gates pointed out before he left office last year, something has to change before these lines become the single largest item in military spending. It’s also true that the massive defense-budget cuts now planned make reform even more imperative.
But pushing service members and vets into ObamaCare, with its guaranteed longer lines at doctors’ offices and emergency rooms — plus its denial of coverage for certain “non-cost-effective” procedures — is no answer.
The Pentagon thinks strong-arming people out of Tricare might save $12.9 billion by 2017 (by the way, unionized civilian defense employees are exempt from the premium hike). But the “efficient” coverage they’ll get under ObamaCare will mean diminished service.
This is particularly obscene for disabled veterans. For example, if certain advanced prosthetics for lost limbs, or in-hospital care for post-traumatic stress disorder, fail to meet federal cost mandates, those services simply won’t be paid for.
To the ObamaCare bureaucrat, the wounded veteran will be just another patient and another number — even when that wound brought a Silver Star or a Navy Cross. Health-care rationing will be the new norm in VA hospitals, poor recompense for those who have already sacrificed so much to defend their country.
The Veterans of Foreign Wars and House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon are already in an uproar over the Pentagon plan. We should expect, and demand, a major battle on this issue.
That’s true even if Defense Secretary Leon Panetta opts to yank the proposal. A retreat that could prove merely temporary isn’t enough. “Reformers” in these areas tend to back-burner their plans in the face of public outrage, only to slide them into law a few years down the line.
The light of scrutiny needs to shine, and stay shining, on this outrageous proposal.
“We can’t keep asking those who have given so much to give that much more,” says Rep. McKeon. He’s right. Otherwise, health care for our military will make those scandalous images of neglected and unsanitary VA facilities a few years ago start to look like the Mayo Clinic.
Arthur Herman is a visiting scholar at AEI. His new book, “Freedom’s Forge,” hits stores in May.
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