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    Tuesday, December 06, 2005

    Spending Up: The Wall Street Journal's Brendan Miniter on the expansion of Tricare, the military's healthcare benefits program:

    Tricare isn't insurance, the government pays for every doctor visit and prescription and collects no premiums, only a small annual enrollment fee. Thus enlarging the program also enlarges the claim on taxpayers' wallets. Expanding it to cover seniors has helped fuel a 500% increase in prescription drug costs since 2001. The cost of Tricare Reserve Select hasn't yet hit the budget, but the tab for the entire program has been steadily rising and is now $19.8 billion, up from about $13 billion a few years ago. Opening it to all reservists will add an estimated $4.6 billion over the next few years.

    One problem is an incentive to overuse or abuse the system. Congress hasn't raised annual fees ($230 for an individual and $460 for a family) since the program began in 1996. With each passing year Tricare becomes a cheaper alternative to health insurance. Some employers even pay eligible employees to enroll because that's less expensive than putting them on the company plan. By 2011, an estimated 87% of military retirees under 65 will be enrolled in Tricare, up from 64% today. At about that time 75% of Tricare's budget will be eaten up by retirees. Soldiers actually fighting the war on terror will get whatever is left.

    Instead of addressing this issue with reforms that would prevent Tricare from consuming other parts of the Pentagon's budget, Congress has been on a spending binge. Over the past four years, Congress has added about $90 billion in personnel benefits to what the President has asked for in military spending. So in the budget now being debated on Capitol Hill the Pentagon will spend almost as much on personnel costs ($129 billion) as it will to buy and design the goods it needs to fight a war ($148 billion).

    This year alone the military will spend about $28 billion on benefits Congress has added just in recent years, which is more than it will spend to buy aircraft and ammunition.


    I've found my Tricare population to be reluctant consumers of healthcare - unlike some other health insurance subscribers (namely HMO members, who are enthusiastic users of it), so that 500% increase in drug costs is quite impressive.
     

    posted by Sydney on 12/06/2005 06:55:00 AM 1 comments

    1 Comments:

    The last time I took my daughter to the army hospital, I came out with no less than FIVE prescriptions for her ear infection. I was quite shocked.

    By Blogger mollo, at 12:51 AM  

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