DoD bill heads to Clinton with benefits changes

A provision reducing the maximum out-of-pocket health care expenses by 60 percent for all military retirees is included in the fiscal 2001 Defense authorization bill (H.R. 4205). The Senate passed the bill last Thursday.

The bill now goes to President Clinton for his signature.

The House passed its conference report on H.R. 4205 in a 382-31 vote Oct. 11, and the Senate passed its conference report on the $310 billion fiscal 2001 Defense authorization bill the next day.

The House authorizes a restructuring of the military health care program TRICARE in the fiscal 2001 authorization bill, and provides permanent lifetime TRICARE eligibility to Medicare-eligible military retirees and their family members, beginning in fiscal year 2002. Under the plan, beneficiaries would pay no deductibles, co-payments, enrollment fees, or premiums when they use TRICARE to pay for any costs not covered by Medicare. The plan is expected to reduce the maximum out-of-pocket expenses for all military retirees from $7,500 to $3,000.

"Those who have served are entitled to these lifetime improvements in health care," said Rep. Ron Lewis, R-Ky, in a statement. "Additionally, this legislation provides better prescription drug coverage for Medicare-eligible military retirees by restoring and expanding mail order and retail pharmacy benefits for all."

The bill also contains a 3.7 percent pay raise for military personnel, and gives military members the right to participate in the Thrift Savings Plan. The TSP is currently only open to civilian federal employees.

Other provisions in the bill would:

  • Reduce out-of-pocket housing costs for military personnel.
  • Extend DoD's authority to offer employee buyouts of up to $25,000 from fiscal 2003 to 2005.
  • Direct the Comptroller General to create a panel of government, industry and labor representatives to review and recommend possible changes to federal privatization policy.
  • Require Pentagon procurement rules to be revised to state a preference for performance-based service contracting.
  • Make agencies accountable for computer security and require annual, independent evaluations of government information security programs.
  • Direct DoD to hold pilot public-private competitions to determine whether civilian personnel services should be outsourced.
The Senate added $4.5 billion to President Clinton's Defense budget request, mainly for procurement spending. Defense procurement under the bill totals $64 billion.
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