Another good reason to embrace preventive health and self-care: retiree health care benefits continue to erode. Recent proposals would make health care significantly more expensive for retirees and their families.
According to this article in Military Times, the Pentagon’s proposed 2017 budget includes several changes to the existing Tricare system and to the fee structure. The most significant price change is the proposed implementation of an annual healthcare fee for “working-age retirees” – retirees (and family members) who are not yet eligible for Medicare.
Under the proposed plan, Tricare would be re-structured into two choices: Tricare Select, which provides care through military treatment facilities (MTFs) and is similar to the current Tricare Prime option, and Tricare Choice, which provides care through civilian providers and is a hybrid of the current Tricare Extra and Tricare Standard options. Tricare Select would cost $350 for an individual or $700 for a family (per year). Tricare Choice would cost $450 for an individual or $900 for a family (per year). Please see the Military Times article for proposed co-payment rates and other proposed fees, which would be in addition to the annual enrollment fee. What’s the bottom line? According to MOAA’s president, retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Dana Atkins, “the full array of fee changes would mean about a $500 to $600 annual increase for retired families under 65 who use in-network providers and an increase of more than $1,000 a year for those using out-of-network providers” (MOAA article on the proposed changes here).
The proposed budget also includes increases to the catastrophic caps for beneficiaries. For retirees, the cap would increase from $3,000 to $4,000, and participation fees would not count toward the caps.
Military Times states, “According to budget documents, the changes are designed to entice more beneficiaries to use military hospitals and clinics by continuing to offer care at these facilities at no cost to patients and curb the rising costs to DoD of private care.” As has previously been pointed out on this blog, this places patients in a very difficult position when MTFs in their area are at capacity and not accepting new patients.
Furthermore, MOAA is concerned about the robustness of the non-military network of providers. In the MOAA article, Lt. Gen. Atkins asserts, “One of the main access problems is that many doctors don’t want to be in the current network. We’d like some assurance that will be fixed.”
The new system would require annual enrollment, and families who fail to enroll and pay the enrollment fee will forfeit coverage for the plan year – in other words, coverage would no longer be automatic, and if you don’t sign-up during the enrollment period, or fail to pay the fee, you would have no military healthcare for that year. While it is suggested that requiring annual enrollment would bring Tricare in line with civilian heath plans, one wonders about ulterior motives. Research has repeatedly shown that individuals are more likely to participate in benefit plans that are opt-out, rather than opt-in (read more here, here, or here).
These proposed changes are intended to change beneficiary health care behaviors. In other words, if it costs more to see doctors and specialists, and it costs more to have prescriptions filled, maybe you won’t use them as often. (Of course, if you miss the sign-up window, you won’t be using them at all that year.)
There are many ways to respond to these proposed changes. I choose to respond to a future that most-likely includes increased healthcare fees by taking actions to improve my health. How about you? Why not take control of your health and your finances by practicing informed preventive health and avoiding increasingly more expensive co-pays? You may find that managing your health through diet, exercise, meditation, or other self-care practices could reduce your need for medications and reduce the frequency of your visits to the doctor. Why not focus on the part of the equation you can control?