House votes to exempt TRICARE from health reform bill

House lawmakers over the weekend voted to protect TRICARE and Defense non-appropriated fund health care beneficiaries from unintended consequences of national health reform.

The exemption (H.R. 4887) applies to the health care coverage provided by the Defense Department to military service members, retirees and their families. It clarifies the tax code to stipulate that coverage provided by Defense is treated as minimal essential coverage, ensuring that service members and their families will not need to purchase additional coverage to meet new health insurance requirements.

The legislation was introduced late Friday by Rep. Ike Skelton, D-Mo., chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. The full House approved it by a vote of 403-0 on Saturday afternoon.

Skelton opposed the health reform bill and planned to vote against it Sunday. In a floor speech Saturday, he acknowledged that the bill under consideration in Congress was unlikely to have any negative effect on military personnel or their dependents.

"However, to reassure our military service members and their families and make it perfectly clear that they will not be negatively affected by this legislation, my bill, H.R. 4887, explicitly states in law that these health plans meet the minimum requirements for individual health insurance."

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