"And then Obama spoke eloquently of expanding veteran's health care, making military families a top priority. Wife Michelle even took time, he reminded, to "learn about the unique burdens" of his audience, and he garnered much applause while assuring pay raises and the ever-important "expanded counseling and outreach."
I was impressed, truly, until I wasn't.
For even as the president spoke, his budget was being prepared. And in Chapters 95 through 98 of OMB's Budget Options, Volume 1, Health Care, possible details of the Democrats' plans for the troops have been published.
In the nutshell of my column space, I can't give many numbers. Rest assured they're ugly and undo years of promises and progress for military families. Most new guidelines would begin in 2011, conveniently after mid-term elections. If implemented, they'll hit hard.
Option 95 is titled: Increase Health Care Cost Sharing for Family Members of Active-Duty Military Personnel. It's self-explanatory.
Option 96 introduces punitive new co-pays and other out-of-pocket fees for our oldest, frailest veterans, the ones on a true fixed income. Members of TRICARE For Life, Obama plans to hold them responsible for their first $525 in medical costs and 50 percent of the next $4,725, indexed to increase with inflation. So much for their sacrifices and promises made.
Option 97 will affect my family. It's entitled: Increase Medical Cost Sharing for Retirees Who are Not Yet Eligible for Medicare. These cost increases (doubling enrollment fees and raising co-pays and deductibles dramatically) would burden widows and orphans of KIAs, as well as former service members aged 38-65. This includes troops wounded severely in combat with limited access to VA care.
Option 98, which I call Pay Again to Play, puts new fees on lower income vets, adding them to millions who already must give again to their government for once-promised health care. On page 189, the OMB bean counters recommend eliminating TRICARE For Life entirely.
As hopeful hearts turn heavy, the writing is on the OMB Web site. Is the new administration calm on top, like a duck, pledging support? Will its feet slash and burn out of sight below, delivering promises to the wrong groups, while betraying our deserving troops?
Patriots everywhere should be concerned. Call Congress. Write. Only a backlash will stop them from sliding these changes, and our military, under the door.
Yes, complain about this one. The military families have suffered quite enough without these additional burdens. We owe them at a MINIMUM, decent health care!