Lawmakers consider TRICARE request

Defense Comptroller Robert Hale Defense Comptroller Robert Hale Defense Department

Lawmakers are still considering the Pentagon’s request to move funds from its health care program to cover costs associated with overseas military operations, according to a spokeswoman for Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C.

The department has asked Congress to reprogram $708 million of fiscal 2012 TRICARE funds to help pay for “unexpected increases” in wartime funding. Some of those unplanned expenses, according to a July 30 letter to House lawmakers, include transportation costs resulting from the closure of Pakistan ground lines of communication and increased Navy operating costs because of an extra carrier in the Central Command region. The letter, from Defense Comptroller Robert Hale, also blamed higher fuel costs for increasing training and operating expenses departmentwide.

A bipartisan group of representatives, led by Wilson, chairman of the Armed Services Personnel Subcommittee, questioned the Pentagon’s move, wondering whether the reprogramming request stemmed in part from congressional rejection of the Obama administration’s recommendation to increase TRICARE fees. Hale and Dr. Jonathan Woodson, assistant Defense secretary for health affairs and director of TRICARE Management Activity, briefed members of the House Armed Services Committee last week on the request. Lawmakers must approve any requests from agencies to transfer appropriated funds to other accounts within the budget.

The July 30 letter from Hale to members of the Armed Services Committee said the $708 million in available TRICARE funds “does not result from any underfunding of the health needs of our military members, retirees and dependents.” Defense wants to shift some of the money -- $6 million -- into the health program’s research arm to fund “emerging requirements,” including advanced development of medical products to enhance wound cleansing and care, better warming and cooling technologies for injured service members, and an information technology interface for electronic data captured from aeromedical evacuations.

Defense noted the $708 million represents slightly more than 2 percent of the total health care program’s fiscal 2012 funding, and the department has to estimate its budget needs two years ahead of time because of the appropriations process. “Given the uncertainty about medical inflation and health care use, and the impact of continual benefit changes and efficiency initiatives, we believe that an estimate that is 98 percent correct is reasonable,” the letter stated. “While we overestimated expenses by about 2 percent last year, in other years we have had to move money into the TRICARE program and reduce other spending.” Congress appropriated about $53 billion in fiscal 2012 to fund health care for service members, military retirees and their families.

The department also defended its efforts in suicide prevention and caring for service members with traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder. The letter said the Pentagon is developing treatments, examining new technologies and hiring more health professionals to deal with those illnesses and provide better access to treatment. “We do not believe that adding more fiscal 2012 funds for these ailments would be effective or efficient,” the letter stated.

The Pentagon’s request to reprogram fiscal 2012 funds comes at a time when the Obama administration and lawmakers on both sides of the political aisle are debating increases to TRICARE enrollment fees and other health care-related costs. The administration in its fiscal 2013 budget proposed raising TRICARE fees for military retirees and their dependents during the next five years, with those in the upper-income brackets seeing the biggest hikes. The cost of providing health care to the military community has more than doubled in the past 12 years; enrollee fees have stayed relatively flat since 1995. So far, both chambers have rejected the administration’s specific proposals to hike fees.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by G Suite

    Cross-Agency Teamwork, Anytime and Anywhere

    Dan McCrae, director of IT service delivery division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

    Download
  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

    Download
  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

    Download
  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.