The TRICARE Quagmire

TRICARE, the health insurance program for active duty military and their families, has a well-deserved reputation for inadequate quality at an exorbitant public cost:

  • A 2008 survey found that 96 percent of physicians accepted new commercially insured patients, 86 percent accepted new patients on Medicare, and 72 accepted new patients on Medicaid. By contrast, between 2008 and 2011, only 58 percent of civilian providers accepted new TRICARE patients.
  • Premiums for enrollees have not risen in the 17 years since TRICARE’s inception in 1996. As a result, enrollment fees for TRICARE Prime recipients remain at $38 a month, about 12.5 percent of the average cost of comparable private insurance.
  • From 2001 to 2011, general military health care spending  grew twice as fast as the rise in the nation’s overall health care costs.  The TRICARE program has largely contributed to this growth, tripling over the last decade. TRICARE spending now accounts for about 10 percent of the baseline defense budget.

Here are some solutions, proposed by NCPA’s Jacob Casey.

Comments (7)

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  1. RM says:

    The comment about Tricare premiums not having risen since inception in 1996 is not quite correct. Tricare prime costs for retirees (active duty pays nothing) were $230 person/$460 family for many years but they started going up a few years ago, limited by the percentage of retirees pay increases.

    Also last year DoD limited Tricare prime to only those folks who live within 100 miles of a military facility. Thus many people who were on Tricare Prime are now using Tricare standard and paying 20 to 25% of allowable costs (similar to Medicare).

  2. Devon Herrick says:

    Defense Secretary Robert Gates tried to reform the program but he was thwarted by Congress at every turn.

  3. Lucas says:

    Good job Jacob!

  4. Matthew says:

    “By contrast, between 2008 and 2011, only 58 percent of civilian providers accepted new TRICARE patients.”

    Strange that the ones who will have the hardest time finding health care access are the ones fighting for the country. What kind of support system is that?

  5. Thomas says:

    TRICARE spending rises, but is still not reaching efficiency. There needs to be real reform for the sake of our soldiers and our budgets.

    • Andrew says:

      And even though spending rises and it becomes more costly, there is still a lack of access to providers. There has to be some incentive provided for health care providers to accept TRICARE plans.

  6. James M. says:

    “To achieve the efficiencies a real market creates, health care needs to reflect its value to the patient.”

    I am in completely agree on this. You can’t have some one size fits all program. The plans need to value the patients, and provide incentives for providers to stop limiting access to care.