As the U.S. deficit continues to soar, the CBO has proposed several deficit cutting maneuvers that could have the effect of increasing veterans' medical debt.

To Cut Deficit, CBO Suggests Moves that Could Increase Veterans’ Medical Debt

As the U.S. deficit continues to soar — and as the federal government appears stuck in a stalemate and unable to agree on funding — the Congressional Budget Office has proposed several deficit cutting maneuvers that could have the effect of increasing veterans’ medical debt.

Military.com reports: “With the federal deficit expected to top $1 trillion this year, the Congressional Budget Office in December published a list of options for reducing the imbalance over the next 10 years, including three suggestions on Tricare and six that address veterans benefits.”

Tricare —  government managed health insurance — is “often considered the gold standard for medical coverage.”

The Military.com post continues: “In its Options for Reducing the Deficit: 2019 to 2028, the CBO laid out 121 opportunities for curtailing spending and raising revenue. These include raising Tricare enrollment fees for military retirees, instituting enrollment fees for Tricare for Life and reducing veterans benefits.”

“The publication marks the fourth time in five years that the CBO has suggested raising Tricare enrollment fees for working-age retirees and introducing minimum out-of-pocket expenses for those using Tricare for Life.”

“The CBO suggested that increasing Tricare enrollment fees for working-age retirees — those under age 65 — could help slash the deficit by $12.6 billion. To obtain this, it said, the Defense Department should more than double annual enrollment fees for individuals and families enrolled in Tricare Prime and institute annual fees of $485 for an individual and $970 for a family for Tricare Select. Most working-age retirees currently pay no enrollment fees for Tricare Select.”

Potential Veterans Medical Care Cuts

What might these cuts look like? FEDWeek reports some key recommendations for veterans and retirees:

  • “An enrollment fee and minimum out-of-pocket requirements for TRICARE for Life, the health-care plan that covers military retirees.”
  • “Narrowing veterans’ eligibility for disability compensation by excluding ‘certain disabilities unrelated to military duties.’”
  • “Reduction of disability payments for veterans once they reach full retirement age for Social Security.”
  • “Narrowing eligibility for disability compensation for veterans with low disability ratings.”
  • “End eligibility for enrollment in the Department of Veterans Affairs health-care system for veterans in Priority Groups 7 and 8 – that is, those with the highest incomes.”

FEDWeek adds: “In presenting the suggested savings, CBO maintained that it did so without either endorsing or opposing each provision it put forth in the report. Nor did it provide specific details regarding how the cuts should be made, deferring such decisions to the departments and agencies responsible for each program.”

Veterans’ Groups Respond to Potential Medical Cuts

Military.com also reports on the reactions from some Veterans’ groups, noting that “one veterans group, AMVETS, is urging the White House and the VA to publicly disavow the proposal before it creates a groundswell of anger within the veteran community.”

Said Joe Chenelly, director of AMVETS: “We want the White House to immediately make a statement saying this recommendation is out of line and will not be considered. We understand that the White House is looking to trim costs, but this cannot be an option in that.”

For more information on the issues surrounding medical debt, please contact RIP Medical Debt.