[Vision2020] House Panel Rejects $2 Billion Cut in Health Care Budget

Tom Hansen thansen at moscow.com
Tue May 8 11:30:26 PDT 2007

>From the May 14, 2007 edition of the Army Times -

"'In testimony before the subcommittee, members heard that the impact of
these efficiency savings could result in the potential closure of a medical
center,' Snyder said."


House panel rejects $2B cut in health care budget

By Rick Maze - rmaze at militarytimes.com
Posted : May 14, 2007

Concerned that cost-cutting measures are hurting the quality and
accessibility of military health care, a House subcommittee has moved to
block Bush administration plans to cut costs and raise fees for people using
the health care system.

The effort by the House Armed Services military personnel panel involves the
rejection of three Bush administration initiatives: increases in Tricare
fees and co-payments for retirees under age 65; the conversion of military
medical jobs to civilian positions; and an order to cut costs for medical
care and operations.

This was a big commitment, said Rep. Vic Snyder, D-Ark., the subcommittee
chairman, who noted that it took more than $2.2 billion to plug the hole in
the health care budget created when panel members voted to reject the
planned funding cuts.

"The president's budget assumed over $2 billion in savings [from] Tricare
fee increases and another $212 million in efficiency savings that was levied
against the services," Snyder said, who credited Rep. Ike Skelton, D-Mo.,
the Armed Services Committee chairman, with committing money to fixing
problems with the military health care system.

So-called "efficiency wedges" have been in use for several years, but even
the service surgeons general warned that the cost-cutting is starting to

"In testimony before the subcommittee, members heard that the impact of
these efficiency savings could result in the potential closure of a medical
center," Snyder said.

Similarly, converting jobs currently filled by uniformed service members
into civilian positions also is now seen as a drain on the health care
system, Snyder said. Beneficiaries, the surgeons general and an independent
study group tasked to look at ways of holding down the military's medical
care costs have warned that conversions and reductions in military medical
positions "are having an adverse impact on access and quality of care,"
Snyder said.

As part of its action on the personnel portion of the 2008 defense
authorization bill, the subcommittee ordered manpower increases in all the
services, but Snyder said the increases of 963 airmen and 698 sailors are
specifically intended to restore personnel cuts in the health care fields.

In denying for the second consecutive year the Pentagon's request for fee
increases in Tricare coverage for retirees and hikes in co-payments for
those who use retail pharmacies, Snyder said he was trying to ensure that
beneficiaries are not forced to carry a disproportionate share of soaring
health care costs.

Noting that the Government Accountability Office and the Pentagon's
Independent Review Group are still studying health care options, Snyder said
increasing fees now, before the studies are done, could harm those using the

"Without a careful, comprehensive, unbiased review of the cost of military
health care, premature proposals that put the burden on military retirees
may not really address systematic cost drivers within the system," Snyder

The subcommittee proposes to extend the current moratorium on Tricare fee
hikes, including pharmacy co-pays, until the end of 2008, he said. 

Because the Senate never acted on the Wounded Warrior Assistance Act, a
comprehensive package of improvements for combat-injured service members and
their families, the House subcommittee also attached that legislation to its
version of the 2008 defense authorization bill. 

The Wounded Warrior legislation has new requirements for assigning
caseworkers to help injured service members and their families - including
providing guidance about the medical evaluation process and giving people
ways to complain about housing and treatment. It also includes strict
guidelines for ensuring that people do not fall through the cracks when
making a transition between the military and veterans' health care systems.

Snyder said the Wounded Warrior package was added "to ensure that this
important piece of legislation is moved forward," although that doesn't
really seem to be a problem, since a growing pile of legislation is aimed at
improving medical treatment for combat-injured troops.


Seeya round town, Moscow.

Tom Hansen
Moscow, Idaho

"Patriotism is not a short and frenzied outburst of emotion but the tranquil
and steady dedication of a lifetime." 

--Adlai E. Stevenson, Jr.

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