(Photo by Patricia Deal, Army Medicine)

Legion to Congress: Leave TRICARE alone

The U.S. Senate is preparing to vote today on the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), and The American Legion wants proposed increases to TRICARE costs eliminated from the bill.

"The American Legion sincerely hopes there are no provisions contained within the NDAA that raise TRICARE fees or other costs in any way," said James Koutz, the Legion’s national commander. "Our position on this issue has been clear for some time. We steadfastly oppose any degradation of veteran or retiree benefits in this or any future policy or legislative acts."

Language in the bill would increase prescription drug co-payments for TRICARE beneficiaries. Co-pays for retail and mail-order prescriptions would be increased, but future increases in co-pays would be linked to the annual cost-of-living adjustment for military retired pay.

If the current version of NDAA passes the Senate, co-pays for drugs purchased at retail pharmacies would be $17 for brand names and $44 for medications not approved by TRICARE.

Koutz said the co-pay increases may sound insignificant to some, but "they represent a disturbing trend toward placing a disproportionate health-care burden on our veterans. This constitutes a breach of faith with servicemembers and military retirees."

The American Legion has passed several resolutions that oppose any increases to TRICARE costs. Most recently, at its national convention last August in Indianapolis, the Legion passed a resolution that noted such increases "are inappropriate and out of line with career servicemembers’ unique sacrifices" and "decades of extraordinarily arduous service conditions," including hazardous duty, overseas deployments to combat zones, and extended separations from family.