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Health Care Plan For Military Could See Higher Fees

A U.S. Marine salutes.

Tricare, the health insurance program for civilian health care for military personnel, military retirees and their dependents, could face substantially higher fees under a new proposal from the the House Armed Services Committee.

The proposal, released April 25, would have many users pay annual enrollment fees, according to Military.com. It would also move current users of Tricare Standard and Tricare Extra into a new plan called Tricare Preferred. To self-refer under this new plan, individuals would have to pay $100 per year and families would pay $200 per year starting in 2020.

But it's the new users who will be expected to pay the highest fees. Individuals would pay enrollment fees of $300 per year and families would have to pay $600. And retirees who joined the service after 2020 would pay $425 each year for an individual or $850 for families, reported Military.com.

New beneficiaries will be able to use Prime for an annual fee. Active-duty families would pay $180 for an individual or $360 for a family, while retirees would pay $325 for an individual or $650 for a family. Current users would not pay to use Prime.

Under the new Preferred option, users would have not have to pay an annual deductible, but would pay set out-of-pocket fees. Emergency room visits would cost $40 in network for active-duty families, and $60 for retirees. And the catastrophic yearly cap would be set at $1,000 for active-duty families and $3,000 for retirees.

The decision to raise Tricare fees comes at a time when the federal government is under increasing pressure to improve veterans' health care, including mental health, after nearly 15 years of wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

That pressure has led to some radical considerations, including completely shutting down the Veterans Affairs health care system.

On April 1, a panel met to consider the possibility of shutting down the VA and move all 9 million of the program's users to private health insurance, reported the Military Times.

“The commission finds the current VA health care system is seriously broken, and because of the breadth and depth of the shortfalls, there is no efficient path to repair it,” said David Blom, a CEO of OhioHealth, a private health care system, who led the panel.

But eight veterans organizations -- including Disabled American Veterans, American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Vietnam Veterans of America and Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America -- denounced the panel, citing a conflict of interest.

“We are greatly alarmed by the proposed strawman document that was developed and drafted outside the open commission process ... without the input or even knowledge of the other commissioners,” wrote organization officials. "What is most unsettling about the 'proposed strawman document' is the utter lack of consideration that veterans would want to improve and expand the VA health care system."

Sources: Military.com, Military Times / Photo credit: NYCMarines/NJ State Library

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