The first group of government workers will begin seeing downgrades in their benefits early next year by way of a huge change in healthcare plans. Which group of people that get paychecks from the government would this be? The military, of course.
The Department of Defense announced that over 170,000 servicemembers in uniform and their families will be required to move from Tricare Prime, a top tier plan that has no co-pays and no premiums, to Tricare Standard, a more conventional insurance plan. Monthly premiums, co-pays and out of pocket expenses will now enter the lexicon of Active Duty Guard and Reserve (Guardsmen and Reservists who work full time for the military) and military retirees.
As of April 1, as many as 30,000 Prime beneficiaries — retirees, Active Guard and Reserve troops, and family members — in Iowa; Minnesota; Oregon; Reno, Nev.; and Springfield, Mo., will have to switch to Tricare Standard, a traditional fee-for-service health plan, according to a source with knowledge of the reorganization.This wont just affect those being forced to switch. The loss of so many Tricare Prime participants will make it harder for hospitals and clinics to justify accepting the Tricare insurance program.
But the greater danger here is that this is likely to be the pattern for austerity cuts in America as the debt bomb explodes. Those who have no recourse to fight benefit cuts will be the first to see their benefits trimmed. What other group of federal employees would meekly accept a large cut to healthcare benefits?
In the long run of course, cuts like this will be necessary across the board, and probably much deeper than this first step. But, as liberals are so fond of saying, everyone needs skin in this game. If we can cut healthcare bennies to members of the US military, then conservatives in Congress should demand similar cuts to every level of federal government, including Congress itself. Democrats are fond of putting women, minorities, children and the elderly in front of cameras to decry potential cuts to these groups. Conservatives need to repay the favor and put on camera military families that have survived through multiple deployments, combat injuries, and are now being told that budget cuts need to start with them.
Those who serve and have served their country understand better than most the need to make sacrifices for a greater good. But we need to get the rest of the country to understand that concept so our country can survive this period of decline.