Skip to comments.Military Update: Coburn, McCain sway Senate to bigger RX fees
Posted on 12/09/2012 10:19:57 AM PST by SandRat
Late-hour speeches by Republican Sens. Tom Coburn (Okla.) and John McCain (Ariz.) on runaway military health costs led the Senate Tuesday to shelve a defense bill amendment that would have spared family members and retirees more burdensome co-pays on drug prescriptions filled off base.
The timing of their opposition, in the last hours of consideration of the 2013 defense authorization bill when amendments were only being approved by unanimous consent, allowed Coburn and McCain to block the Senate from supporting the softer House-passed plan for raising prescription fees.
There will be a second chance next week when House-Senate conferees iron out differences in separate versions of the defense bill. But Coburn and McCain, using fresh scoring of costs from the Congressional Budget Office, were able to raise new doubts among some senators over the long-term cost implications of adopting the House plan.
This is paid for, but it is smoke and mirrors, Coburn told colleagues on the Senate floor. We have used a trick that will require [more funding for] the health account which means we will not have $1.7 billion for naval exercises, for flight training, for tank training, for range training.
That challenge got a strong endorsement from McCain, ranking Republican on the armed services committee, who repeated Robert Gates words as defense secretary in 2010 that health costs are eating us alive.
We are going to have to find ways to bring these costs under control and still, at the same time, provide our veterans with the benefits they have earned, McCain said, in arguing against the House plan which was presented as an amendment from Sens. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.).
McCain attacked the notion that raising fees would harm readiness.
I know of no one who joined the military because of TRICARE, (though) I hear (it) from all the retirees I have not yet met a single 18-year-old, including my own son who joined the Marine Corps, who said: Gee, I want to join the Marine Corps because of TRICARE.
No, McCain continued, they joined to serve their country. They understand our obligation to them is not to hand them a bankrupt Defense Department [where] all the costs are in things such as TRICARE and retirement benefits so we cant provide them with what they need to fight.
The reality is that pharmacy co-pays will rise this spring for family members and retirees. By how much will be determined by a House-Senate conference committee that will be meeting next week behind closed doors.
The Senate defense bill, passed 98 to 0, now has no language to block or alter the Obama administrations drug co-pay plan. Under it, drugs dispensed on base would stay free, and co-pays for generics in retail outlets would remain $5. But co-pays for brand names at retail on the military formulary would jump to $26 from $12. Non-formulary drugs, which cost TRICARE more, would no longer be dispensed at retail, only through mail order. Co-pays for brand names at mail order would pop to $26 from $9, but mail order prescriptions usually are for 90 days versus 30 at retail.
The administration also wants co-pays adjusted by $2 annually until they reach $34 in 2016. After that, the pharmacy fees off base would be adjusted annually to keep pace with medical inflation.
The House plan, which military associations helped to design, allows more modest initial increases in drug fees and would tie annual increases thereafter to the percentage rise in military retired pay. This plan would at least match health cost savings of the administrations plan by requiring elderly beneficiaries to use mail order to refill maintenance drugs, at least for a year. The expectation is that seniors will like the convenience and stay with mail order, saving TRICARE billions of dollars yearly in retail drug costs.
But a Senate source said Coburn and McCain were able to derail the amendment so easily because the Congressional Budget Office had found it would cost a lot more money than expected after 10 years if adjustments stayed tied to retiree COLAs rather than medical inflation. To address this, advocates agreed to have the COLA link sunset after 10 years. But Senate leaders chose instead to avoid further action on the amendment.
Steve Strobridge, director of government relations for Military Officers Association of America, said the Senate seemed primed to adopt the House-passed plan until, suddenly, it fell victim to misplaced concerns over its impact on health costs. Its opponents painted the amendment as maintaining the status quo, he said, when in fact it represents significant concessions with co-pay hikes and the mail order requirement for elderly.
These concerns about drug costs taking money away from other defense programs are completely, 100 percent bogus, Strobridge said. The fact is the Pentagon has been using health care money to fund other things for the past several years. And the whole point of this amendment is that health care money should be used to fund health care.
Defense officials earlier this year sought to reprogram $700 million from health care into other accounts. Strobridge said that would have brought total reprogramming of health dollars to $3 billion over the last three years, a period when defense officials insisted health costs are out of control.
Coburn predicted the House-backed plan would become law because the service organizations want us to do it. But it is not the right thing to do. We have to begin, as we negotiate to increase revenues from the very wealthy in this country, declining expenses at the Defense Department. Everybody has to share [in controlling costs]. If they dont share now, they will share much more painfully in the future.
Write Military Update, P.O. Box 231111, Centreville, VA, or email firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter: Tom Philpott @Military_Update
Pay attention ... this is modus operandi henceforth.
We've lost the Republic.
Maverick strikes again.
He really really really doesn’t care much for his fellow veterans, does he?
Here we go...
So McCain’s kid didn’t join the Marines for Tricare...
Really? Ask anyone who has a family what they think...
And adjusting med costs annually to med inflation means costs for the military member and retiree will constantly increase...
Another case of we won’t know what’s in it until it’s passed.
I joined, and rejoined four more times for Tricare. It wasn’t called “TRicare”, it didn’t even exist by that name yet. I wanted it (and was promised it) even more than the pension that was also promised. My medical expenses, and those of my wife have been greater than all the pension payments since 1988. I had the foresight to see this.
I can almost - sorta agree with McLame on one thing. Very, Very few people join at first for Tricare.
But when that first reenlistment comes up the service member starts to weigh the benifits of getting out or staying in.
One benifit that made me re-up and service over 20 was Free Health care for me and mine for life.
“Free” sure is starting to cost more and more.
Veterans Administration waste is unfathomable, and the drugs are no exception.
How did the writer of that article ever get the gig?! I got dizzy attempting to follow the switched syntaxes and double negatives.
Since ratface McLame is involved, he could have just said that the Senate is out to screw the military one more time and we all would have understood completely!
According to Shakespeare, brevity is the soul of wit.
I’m used to getting angrier each day, but this takes the cake. Not ONE of the parasites have given up anything, while suggesting the very people guarding our freedom take the hit. I would gladly stand in line to piss on their grave if the good Lord gives me the time. Bloodsuckers, both parties!
I wonder how many who were congressional bloodsuckers that continue to receive their healthcare. Yet the first ones who are attacked are the active duty / veterans. Not long before there is only one class, the political elite and everyone else. These peckerheads don’t give a damn about God and country. The way they are acting after the election is a prime example of what they think of the citizen of this nation.
McStain looking out for our vets. What a guy!!!
MCCAIN’S COMMENTS ABOVE ARE FLAT OUT, UTTER LIES. LIES, LIES, LIES. No, we did not join for TRICARE. No RearEndHole, we did the years because we were told if we accepted LESS PAY, the years in total away from our families, the 18 moves in 25 years, that we got the pay, and health care for life, for free. Yes, liar, free. That was the deal. That caved in the 1990s, under lies from Congress, the Pentagon and Klinton. Lies. That is what they promised. They are LIARS. They told us that we were promised things by recruiters that recruiters had no authority to make. HOWEVER, the Pentagon, commanders, Joint Chiefs, Congress and White House, ALL KNEW WHAT RECRUITERS WERE DOING AND “PROMISIING”!!! They went along with the promises. Now, that makes them PART OF THE FRAUD that they claim recruiters had no authority to make. They KNEW what recruiters were doing and had been doing it for 50 YEARS!!!!! No McCain, I did not join for the benefits. I joined DURING VIETNAM. I did not go to Canada. I went to Nam. I did what I was suppose to do. IT was when I REENLISTED, that the promises for doing the career time, THIS IS WHAT YOU GET!!! The REENLISTMENT COUNSELORS at unit levels made these promises also. They KNEW that these promises were being made by these counselors. They WENT ALONG WITH THE FRAUD. But, now that they need more money for bombs, they screw 60, 70 and 80 year olds who have no way to get anything insurance to back this up. I am going to have to purchase some type of insurance to back up Tricare now. This is going to cost me double what it would have when I was in my 40s and 50s. PLUS the Tricare insurance fees are GOING UP BY DOUBLE EVERY STINKING YEAR FOR THE NEXT FIVE YEARS. By the time these fools are done, we will have no retired pay check left. I will get it today and hand it all right back in Tricare insurance fees. LIARS. EVERY STINKING ONE OF THEM ARE LIARS!
My dad put in 20 years in no small part for the promise of free health care. He’s seen that promise broken, modified, and altered time and again. He traded 20 years of his life making more money somewhere else, and two tours in Vietnam under and agreement that was later broken.
If McCain thinks pay and benefits don’t affect recruitment and retention, end the benefits and cut the pay and half and let’s see how many show up for ‘love of country’ alone.
Write Military Update, P.O. Box 231111, Centreville, VA, or email email@example.com or twitter: Tom Philpott @Military_Update
| I WENT into a public 'ouse to get a pint o' beer,
The publican 'e up an' sez, " We serve no red-coats here."
The girls be'ind the bar they laughed an' giggled fit to die,
I outs into the street again an' to myself sez I:
O it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' " Tommy, go away " ;
But it's " Thank you, Mister Atkins," when the band begins to play
The band begins to play, my boys, the band begins to play,
O it's " Thank you, Mister Atkins," when the band begins to play.
I went into a theatre as sober as could be,
They gave a drunk civilian room, but 'adn't none for me;
They sent me to the gallery or round the music-'alls,
But when it comes to fightin', Lord! they'll shove me in the stalls!
For it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' " Tommy, wait outside ";
But it's " Special train for Atkins " when the trooper's on the tide
The troopship's on the tide, my boys, the troopship's on the tide,
O it's " Special train for Atkins " when the trooper's on the tide.
Yes, makin' mock o' uniforms that guard you while you sleep
Is cheaper than them uniforms, an' they're starvation cheap.
An' hustlin' drunken soldiers when they're goin' large a bit
Is five times better business than paradin' in full kit.
Then it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an` Tommy, 'ow's yer soul? "
But it's " Thin red line of 'eroes " when the drums begin to roll
The drums begin to roll, my boys, the drums begin to roll,
O it's " Thin red line of 'eroes, " when the drums begin to roll.
We aren't no thin red 'eroes, nor we aren't no blackguards too,
But single men in barricks, most remarkable like you;
An' if sometimes our conduck isn't all your fancy paints,
Why, single men in barricks don't grow into plaster saints;
While it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an` Tommy, fall be'ind,"
But it's " Please to walk in front, sir," when there's trouble in the wind
There's trouble in the wind, my boys, there's trouble in the wind,
O it's " Please to walk in front, sir," when there's trouble in the wind.
You talk o' better food for us, an' schools, an' fires, an' all:
We'll wait for extry rations if you treat us rational.
Don't mess about the cook-room slops, but prove it to our face
The Widow's Uniform is not the soldier-man's disgrace.
For it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an` Chuck him out, the brute! "
But it's " Saviour of 'is country " when the guns begin to shoot;
An' it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' anything you please;
An 'Tommy ain't a bloomin' fool - you bet that Tommy sees!
I’d be willing to pay more, because i can afford it IF ... I knew some lowlife on welfare wasn’t going to get bigger check at the expense of me paying more. But if would help another VET that needs help, I’d pay more.