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Congress plans to block Tricare fee increases

Oct. 7, 2009 - 04:03PM   |   Last Updated: Oct. 7, 2009 - 04:03PM  |  
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Tricare fee increases imposed last week by the Defense Department will be repealed by a provision of the compromise 2010 defense authorization bill unveiled Wednesday by House and Senate negotiators.

Acting on complaints from a variety of military associations, who accused the Defense Department of reneging on a promise of a one-year moratorium on any increases in out-of-pocket patient costs, negotiators writing the final defense policy bill included a provision, retroactive to Oct. 1, prohibiting any Tricare fee increases.

The associations had taken issue with a $110-a-day increase in inpatient hospitalization charges for military retirees and their families using Tricare Standard and with a $1 a day increase in inpatient charges for active-duty families.

The fee increases were announced on Sept. 30 and took effect on Oct. 1, but the defense bill, HR 2647, includes a provision barring any fee increases until the start of fiscal 2011.

Retired Army Maj. Gen. Bill Matz, president of the National Association for Uniformed Services, said the announcement of fee increases was shocking considering that the Obama administration promised earlier this year to hold off on any new fee Tricare fee increases until fiscal 2011.

"President Obama and DoD assured NAUS and the entire military family earlier this year that there would rightly be no increases in any Tricare fees" in fiscal 2010, Matz said. "We took them at their word, and I can't believe that a co-pay increase like this was allowed to go forward," he added.

The fee repeal included in the 2010 defense bill will not take effect until the bill passes Congress and is signed into law by Obama, which could take several weeks at the soonest.

In the meantime, anyone charged the higher fees can expect a refund once the bill becomes law, according to congressional aides who worked on the provision.

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