Hardware, …, ideas, people

The FY2009 DoD budget proposal calls for increases ranging from 100% to 400% in TRICARE (the military medical program for active duty and retirees) pharmacy fees, moving TRICARE in a single step from one of the best drug benefit programs to one that is decidedly second rate.

As the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA) notes in its description of the new proposals, which are included in DoD’s record-setting $515 billion request (that figure does not include operations in Iraq and Afghanistan):

For one data point, MOAA’s own employee plan (BlueCross BlueShield) offers our employees retail medications for copays of $10 (generic), $20 (brand) and $35 (non-formulary brand) — lower across the board than proposed for military beneficiaries. The TRICARE copays also would exceed those offered under many plans available to legislators and federal civilians.

Most telling of all, Wal-Mart offers over 360 medications at a copayment of only $4 to anyone who walks in the door.

The services don’t seem to be up in arms to protect their members or retirees. They have not, however, been reluctant to ask for $30 billion to buy hardware over and above what DoD put in the budget proposal. The Air Force has even threatened to buy nearly 200 additional F-22s despite the refusal of the Secretary of Defense and the President to include them in the budget:

“We’re committed to funding 380,” [General Bruce] Carlson [commander of Air Force Material Command] said. “We’re building a program right now to do that. It’s going to be incredibly difficult on the Air Force, but we’ve done this before.” “General Says USAF Will Procure 380 F-22s, Despite OSD,” Aerospace Daily, February 14, 2008.

Although TRICARE is not funded out of the Air Force (or any service) budget, it is easy to see where that service’s heart is.

And the Army is proposing to spend billions more (which are included in the budget) to recruit new soldiers:

After lowering its own education standards and accepting a rising number of recruits who would have been considered unfit a few years ago, the Army’s initiatives — costing a large part of the $15 billion it will receive to add more soldiers — underscore the difficulty it faces in signing up enough young men and women to add 65,000 soldiers to its ranks over the next three years. Bryan Bender, “Army To Boost Perks For Recruits,” Boston Globe, February 9, 2008.

[Note to military officers: If you aren’t a member of MOAA, now might be a very good time to consider it — Chet Richards, MOAA member]

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