Health care fees for military retirees set to increase this weekend

Military retirees who enroll in the Defense Department's health care program will see an increase in annual fees starting Oct. 1.

Beneficiaries who join TRICARE Prime in fiscal 2012 will pay an additional $2.50 per month for individual members and $5 per month for family enrollment -- bringing the total annual fee to $260 and $520, respectively. Costs for retirees already in the program, as well as survivors of active-duty service members and medically retired participants, will remain at $230 per year for individuals and $460 per year for families.

Even though enrollment fees are set to increase, the TRICARE Prime catastrophic cap of $3,000 annually will not change. Co-pays and deductibles also will remain steady. Active-duty service members will continue to receive health care with no out-of-pocket costs, according to Defense.

"We are committed to offering the best possible health care system for our entire military family," Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs Dr. Jonathan Woodson said in a statement. "This modest annual fee increase allows us to responsibly manage our costs in line with other secretary of Defense initiatives announced earlier this year."

Increasing health care premiums for military retirees has long been a politically sensitive subject, with lawmakers and military advocates wary of appearing ungrateful for the sacrifices of service members.

Participant fees under TRICARE were set in 1995 and have remained at $460 per year for the basic family plan. But the cost for comparable coverage for federal workers is between $5,000 and $6,000 annually.

The Pentagon has pushed for fee increases, originally proposing a 13 percent boost in 2012.

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