Some Military Retirees Assured Lifetime Care

Article excerpt

After years of controversy, former career military personnel over 65 will finally receive the health care entitlements they were promised.

Prior to June 7, 1956, those who entered the armed forces were often promised free health care for life if they retired after at least 20 years of service. Yet today these same men and women have to purchase supplemental insurance to afford health care.

That will soon no longer be necessary. Congress passed legislation, effective Oct. 1, 2001, that provides more than 1 million military retirees age 65 and older and their beneficiaries with health care for life.

"This is historic," said Rep. Steve Buyer (R-Ind.), who spearheaded the bill in the House. "Those who served our country were promised lifetime health care. This legislation now delivers the promise of lifetime health care for military retirees and their families."

Currently, retirees and their family members receive Tricare benefits until the retiree turns 65. Then Medicare takes over and all Tricare benefits are lost, forcing retirees to get supplemental insurance to cover gaps in Medicare.

All other federal civil service and U.S. Postal Service employees in retirement have access to the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program (FEHBP), a plan under which the government pays 100% of costs. But military retirees do not. The inequality was clear, and the bill giving retirees lifetime health care easily passed the House 382-31, and the Senate 90-3, in October.

The health care entitlement program, part of the FY2001 Defense Authorization Act, will allow retirees and family members to use Medicare but also retain Tricare to pay costs Medicare does not cover. Beneficiaries will not pay enrollment fees, premiums, co-payments or deductibles.

PRESCRIPTION DRUGS

The plan also expands the Defense Department's mail order and retail pharmacy program so all may participate without enrollment fees. Beneficiaries will pay $8 for a mail-ordered 90-day supply of prescription medications. If ordered through a Tricare pharmacy, a prescription will require a 20% co-pay. And if retirees use an out-of-network pharmacy, they will need to pay a 25% co-pay and a $150 deductible for the year.

All beneficiaries eligible for Medicare will have access to the prescription drug program on April 1, 2001. …