Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Here's my question for your representative

. . .and actually, because of the topic at hand, EVERY Congressperson should have a knowledgeable answer to this question--but you shouldn't hold your breath:

What is going to happen to the military's health program if ObamaCare becomes law?

I ask this because as we speak, there's a large population of military members putting their lives on the line every day in some God-forsaken hellhole, far away from their loved ones, fighting a war to which there is no grand strategy and, according to the President himself, no goal of victory.

And part of the reason why that young soldier or Marine, airman or even sailor is in the uniform and in the numerous hellish places our fighting men and women walk is because of the military's health care plan. It's called Tricare, and for all the bashing it receives in certain quarters, it is continuously cited as one of the best retention tools for the services.

For depth: Tricare is the health system offered to military dependents and retirees (and their families). The uniformed member gets care through his or her service--I think they all have their own doctors, nurses, and other health care professionals, and most bases have a military treatment facility--although for some specialty services, the member might get referred out of the service. And in one of the "types" of Tricare, dependents and retirees also get to use military facilities, with referrals to specialists when necessary. But a large population of those covered by Tricare are enrolled in a service very similar to an HMO--paid for mostly by Uncle Sam (there are copays, and for retirees there are premiums, but at a great bargain to equal care in the "civilian" sector). The money to pay for that coverage is part of the DoD budget.

So here's my rhetorical question: IF ObamaCare passes and a huge influx of cash goes from our pockets into HHS to provide for a "public option", what are the chances that Tricare will remain with DoD? I know, I know, the President himself has said that health care for the military isn't going to be downgraded at all under his plans. And such assurances should be good enough for me, right? Well, maybe. . .but I think his explanations are long on intention, and short on specifics.

Specifically, I want to know if Obama intends to keep Tricare in the realm of the DoD budget? If so, why? It occurs to me that such a thing would be an unnecessary overlap--bureaucracy at its worst. In the article I link to immediately above, the President offers that Secretary of Defense Gates "will talk to you about the degree to which his budget is being sucked up by health care inflation"; in such an environment, why wouldn't there be a push to drive this bill out of DoD and into HHS?

Which leads me to my next question: if the intent is to put the money--and therefore CONTROL--for the military's health system into a Department other than Defense, when is that little tidbit of information going to hit the streets?

The fighting men and women of our military ask for so little from this country. They might not even cry foul if their loved ones and predecessors get "dumped" into the public plan. . .but that should be a conversation held out in the open TODAY.

Make your Congressman or Congresswoman have that conversation.


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