FRA NewsBytes – 9-6-13

fra_logo_tr-c6-opt1In this week’s edition:
Sequestration Cuts May Get Bigger
Doc Fix Legislation Pending
TRICARE and the Affordable Care Act
September is Suicide Awareness Month
Sequestration Cuts May Get Bigger
Furloughs for civilian Defense employees were reduced from 11 days to six and commissaries have returned to regular hours of operation, but shipmates are reminded that FY 2013 was only the beginning of the sequestration spending cuts mandated by the Budget Control Act (BCA) of 2011.  Provisions of the BCA will be implemented over 10 years and the cuts get bigger with each year.  It’s also important to note that 50 percent of the cuts must come from the Defense Department (DoD), despite the fact that DoD makes up only 17 percent of the total budget. This fiscal year’s defense cuts amounted to $37 billion and next year (FY 2014) those reductions may increase to $52 billion, unless alternative spending reductions are authorized. Neither the Administration’s 2014 budget request nor the House and Senate versions of the Defense Authorization bill (H.R. 1960, S. 1197) account for sequestration cuts.

Congress reconvenes next week and FRA and 33 other Military Coalition organizations have signed a letter being sent to all members of Congress expressing concerns about continued defense cuts and asking lawmakers to work together to “eliminate the harmful effects of sequestration.” The letter warns that such broad-based cuts will compromise our nation’s defenses and “the very viability of the All-Volunteer Total Force.”

Members are strongly urged to use the FRA Action Center to ask their elected officials to eliminate Defense spending from sequestration. To weigh in on this issue, visit http://www.capwiz.com/fra/issues/alert/?alertid=62389731

Doc Fix Legislation Pending
The deadline for significant cuts to reimbursement rates for physicians’ seeing Medicare and TRICARE patients is fast approaching. Reductions of nearly 30 percent are slated to take effect on January 1, 2014, unless Congress acts to prevent them.

Congress approved only temporary fixes in the past, but earlier this year the House Committee on Energy and Commerce’s Health Subcommittee approved legislation that authorizes comprehensive reform of the formula used to determine physician reimbursements.  The bill (H.R. 2810), sponsored by Rep. Michael Burgess (Texas), seeks to make the so-called “doc fix” permanent by repealing the antiquated Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) formula for determining Medicare and TRICARE reimbursement rates and replacing it with a fair, stable and simplified system of physician payments. The bill is awaiting further consideration by the full House.

This bill is listed on the FRA Action Center, where you can urge your Representative to support the bill.  http://www.capwiz.com/fra/issues/alert/?alertid=62788456

TRICARE and the Affordable Care Act
A number of shipmates have inquired about the impact, if any, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), also known as “Obamacare,” will have on their TRICARE benefits.  Effective January 1, 2014, all Americans must have Minimum Essential Coverage (MEC) to fulfill the individual-coverage mandate of the legislation.  Unless exempted, those without MEC may be required to pay a penalty (“shared responsibility payment”) for each month they go without healthcare coverage.

The TRICARE Management Activity (TMA) confirms that TRICARE Prime, Prime Remote and Standard; the US Family Health Plan, TRICARE Overseas plans; Transitional Assistance Management Plan; and TRICARE for Life (TFL) qualify as an MEC. Purchased programs such as TRICARE Young Adult (TYA), TRICARE Retired Reserve (TRR), TRICARE Reserve Select (TRS), and the Continued Health Care Benefit Program also qualify. Those eligible for direct care only (MTF care only) or for Line of Duty conditions only do not have MEC.*

FRA worked to ensure TRICARE and VA healthcare programs are separate from the PPACA and, as a result, the new healthcare law will not impact TRICARE or VA beneficiaries. FRA’s Legislative Team continues to monitor implementation of the PPACA to ensure those programs are not adversely impacted by unanticipated consequences.

* “If your parents or parents-in-law are dependent on you for support, your local MTF may be able to help with the cost of their health care.  Although dependent parents are not eligible for most TRICARE benefits, they may be eligible to receive health care at the MTF.

Health care for eligible dependent parents or parents-in-law is available on a space-available basis at certain MTFs.  Access to care is subject to change based on the MTF’s capacity and capabilities.”

(Excerpted from the TRICARE Prime Handbook, which is available at http://www.humana-military.com/library/pdf/prime-handbook.pdf)

September is Suicide Awareness Month
Sadly, an average of 18 veterans commits suicide every day.  September is Suicide Awareness Month and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is urging everyone to be mindful of the signs of suicide risk and be aware of the resources available to help.

A critical step in preventing suicide is learning to recognize warning signs. Although many at-risk veterans may not show any signs they intend to harm themselves, there are behaviors that could indicate a need for support, including involvement in risky behaviors, withdrawing from family and friends, and feeling hopeless, anxious, and/or angry. To learn about additional signs that someone may be at risk, visit: www.VeteransCrisisLine.net/SignsOfCrisis

If a veteran you know exhibits any of these signs, trained professionals (many of whom are veterans themselves) at the Veterans Crisis Line can help. Just call 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, chat online at www.VeteransCrisisLine.net/Chat or text to 838255 for free, confidential support, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.

To download free Suicide Prevention Month materials go to www.VeteransCrisisLine.net/SPMSupport