Murkowski Questions “Nickel and Diming” of Military Health Care Cost Increases

Senator: Is This the Right Way to Treat Our Military Retirees and Their Families?

With military retirees and family members facing a surge in out-of-pocket costs for medical care co-pays due to new TRICARE policies within the Fiscal Year 2015 Pentagon budget, Senator Lisa Murkowski is pressing the military for the reasoning behind these fee hikes.  In a recent Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee hearing, Murkowski asked the Surgeon Generals of the military whether these increases were fully thought out in addressing the military’s bottom line or strictly to hit a budget number on a spreadsheet.

(Murkowski asks Pentagon Surgeons General about TRICARE changes – Click to watch)

“When you were formulating these cost changes, was there any thought given to the cumulative effects of all the cuts on the paychecks of our service members or retirees, or was this just a budget-driven exercise?” asked Murkowski.  “I’m trying to understand whether or not a proposal like this is a better way to go …given the fact we have entitlement reforms being considered by the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission more methodically and holistically.”

Senator Murkowski closed her questioning emphatically, asking “Is this the right way to approach how we deal with our military retirees and military members and their families?”

In response to her questioning, Air Force Surgeon General Lt General Thomas Travis agreed with Senator Murkowski that the TRICARE increase is an added “burden” to service members, saying “I’m acutely aware that as you add all these things together- its nickels and dimes. But nickels and dimes add up, I don’t disagree.”

BACKGROUND: In the FY 2015 Defense budget proposal, service members are being impacted in four different ways: (1) basic pay, (2) housing allowance, (3) TRICARE and (4) commissary access – all prior to a larger cost/benefit analysis being finalized within the Pentagon. Presently, the Department of Defense is taking a system-wide analysis and evaluation of all its expenses through the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission to find the most intelligent ways to balance the Pentagon’s ledgers.  Its report, due out in early 2015, will aim to maintain the ‘long-term viability of the All-Volunteer Force’ that defends the United States and our interests.  Senator Murkowski is wary of the military making cuts or major fiscal changes before the commission releases its recommendations, and will continue to pursue a more thorough approach to its budget challenges.