According to the Congressional Budget Office, without immediate budgetary cuts to federal programs for the elderly, the ever-growing numbers of Baby-Boomers entering retirement over the next few years could bring about dire consequences for everyone.
But perhaps the most contentious issue drawing ire from both sides of the political aisle has to do with Tricare For Life, the government healthcare program for active military personnel, dependents, and retirees. The question remains, however, just how realistic is a proposal that could cut budgets to the bone for a program that heretofore was viewed as a sacred cow?
Currently there are about 9.6 million beneficiaries worldwide depending upon Tricare For Life, many of these recipients are active military personnel. What has folks up in arms is that under the proposal, Tricare for Life clients will be expected to pay upwards of 50-percent of their total medical bill. Quite an increase given the fact that these same military personnel -- both active and retired -- were told upon signing up for military service that their healthcare needs would be taken care of for their lifetimes at little or no cost. Think of it as part of the contract now being reneged upon, critics to the new proposal say.
"The Congressional Budget Office has made public a proposal stating that veterans are now going to be paying up to 50% of their medical bill," Said Candor7, an anonymous blogger against the proposed changes . "That's a big jump from paying nothing for the past 30 some odd years".
Under the proposal, non-active duty recipients could expect to pay for half of all medical care received, while active duty personnel would be required to shell out 10-percent toward their total medical bill. Proponents insist that making such deep cuts will effectively translate into savings 0f $53 billion over the next 10 years, a spokesperson for the Congressional Budget Office said.
What's more, If approved by Congress, the first impact would be felt by Tricare For Life beneficiaries starting in 2011. By initiating cost-sharing requirements, retirees would be expected to pay the first $525 of medical cost and 50% of the next $4,725 for a first year cost of $2,888 per person. All payments would be indexed annually to increase with inflation. Savings garnered through Tricare For Life would be earmarked to help fund healthcare benefits for recipients who can't afford healthcare coverage or who would otherwise be uninsurable through existing healthcare insurance, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
Needless to say critics of President Barack Obama's recently enacted healthcare legislation view such budgetary maneuvering as robbing from many active duty, military retirees and veterans who made great sacrifices serving their country and giving to those who have made little to no contributions socially.
" Isn’t it ironic, moronic and outrageous to steal $53 billion from vets and active duty military families so the (crackhead) down the street will receive free medical coverage?" Candor7 added.
But James Siscel, a spokesman for the Reserve Officers Association, claims Tricare For Life is not at risk under current proposals and that viral e-mail messages from persons such as "Candor7" serve only to instill unwarranted fear.
"A total of six proposals of the 115 might affect military healthcare," Siscel said. "Other options include increasing health care cost sharing for
family members of military personnel on active duty ... increasing health care cost sharing for military retirees under age 65, and co-payments and changes to enrollment for medical care provided by the Veterans Affairs hospitals for enrollees without a service-connected disability. At this point there are no fires needing to be put out."