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Tom Coburn’s Cuts: Military’s Tricare Prime Health Care Program Targeted

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) wants to cut taxpayer funding for non-military elements of the Defense Department, starting with making retired, uninjured service members pay more for what he described as “extremely low-cost health care for life” for themselves, their wives and dependents under the Tricare Prime system.

For military retirees eligible for Medicare, he also wants to raise the co-payments that they are charged to be in Tricare for life, the second payer for health care after Medicare. In addition, he wants to increase low fees that Tricare beneficiaries pay for pharmaceuticals purchased at their local drugstores.

Former defense secretary Robert M. Gates proposed raising Tricare Prime enrollment fees for single retirees from $230 a year to $260 a year and fees for retiree families from $460 a year to $520 a year. Coburn wants the fees to be much higher and more in line with private-sector health plans.

Part of his concern is fairness, first for uninjured veterans who, for example, served in Iraq and/or Afghanistan but “leave the military without serving 20 years [and] are not entitled to any of these health-care benefits.” They represent some 70 percent of those serving, according to Pentagon officials.

Another comparison he makes is to other federal government workers whose plans are not as cheap. A medical doctor, Coburn told reporters last Monday: “Nobody in the country, as a single person working 20 years for the government, should be able to get health care for $250 a year. Nobody was ever promised that, and nobody should be able to do that.”

Instead, he wants to increase the enrollment fee for single retirees to “approximately $2,000 per year and $3,500 for a family.” At the same time he would limit out-of-pocket expenses at $7,500 for those retirees with families. He thinks these changes could save $11.5 billion a year.

His Tricare for life would require retirees to pay up to $550 for half the initial cost not covered by Medicare and then up to $3,025, after which all costs would be paid by Tricare. This change could save $4.3 billion a year.

Coburn wants to reduce the $8 billion annual government share of the cost of drugs that Tricare beneficiaries purchase from their local private retail pharmacies rather than buying them at lower cost by mail order or at military base facilities. Where the price is now $3 for a 30-day supply of a generic drug and $9 for a brand-name from private pharmacies, Coburn would raise that to$15 for generic and $25 for brand names and save some $2.6 billion a year.

Coburn told reporters he has no doubt about the reaction to his Tricare ideas.

“There’s no question,” he said, “. . . retired military, they won’t like what I’ve done. But the fact is is nobody’s going to like what we’ve done, because everybody gets a pinch — everybody. ”

Beyond health care, Coburn has several other proposals that will rattle the Pentagon. He wants to eliminate most of the $1.3 billion-a-year subsidy that supports the Defense Commissary system of 252 grocery stores on military bases worldwide. Prices at commissaries are much lower than at civilian supermarkets; they are listed at cost plus a 5 percent surcharge. That money goes to offset costs of new commissaries or to repair and maintain old ones. It does not pay for salaries and benefits of the roughly 18,000 people who work at the commissaries.

Coburn supports a Congressional Budget Office proposal that would reduce the taxpayer subsidy over five years and see a gradual raise in prices so commissaries could become self-sufficient. The increase in cost, according to the CBO, would amount to $400 per service family per year and save the government about $900 million annually.

He also wants to close down the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program, which for more than 20 years has added around $200 million a year primarily for breast, lung and prostate cancer projects that have to be managed primarily by contractors. Coburn’s option is to “transfer funding for cancer research that affects the general population back to [the National Institutes of Health] and reduce the administrative costs of administering this research for savings.”

By: Walter Pincus, The Washington Post, July 24, 2011

July 25, 2011 Posted by | Conservatives, Deficits, Economic Recovery, Economy, Federal Budget, GOP, Health Care Costs, Lawmakers, Medicare, Pentagon, Politics, Republicans | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mitt Romney Is Unemployed: Freeloading Former Government Employee Seeks Handout

Mitt Romney is just like you: He doesn’t have a job. And that’s hilarious!

Mitt Romney sat at the head of the table at a coffee shop here on Thursday, listening to a group of unemployed Floridians explain the challenges of looking for work. When they finished, he weighed in with a predicament of his own.

“I should tell my story,” Mr. Romney said. “I’m also unemployed.”

According to Jeff Zeleny, the room full of unemployed people laughed at this, which would make it the first recorded instance of someone laughing at something Mitt Romney intended to be funny.

But should they have laughed at poor Mitt Romney? Like so many Americans, the longer Mitt Romney has gone without a job, the worse his chances of finding new employment have become. There are not very many openings in his chosen field, and he has no other marketable skills. Poor Mitt Romney is in many respects a modern-day “forgotten man.”

Should Mitt Romney just rest on his laurels, waiting for some government handout? No! In fact, his insistence on getting another job in government is exactly what is preventing him from swallowing his pride and taking any work that is available. He’s too good to work at Walmart now? He should stop looking to Washington for a solution to his problem, get some part-time minimum wage work, and consider going back to school. There are many fine for-profit institutions that offer night courses for adults just like him.

Mitt Romney needs to pick himself up by his bootstraps and quit complaining.

 

By: Alex Pareene, Salon War Room, June 16, 2011

June 17, 2011 Posted by | Class Warfare, Conservatives, Economy, GOP, Government, Governors, Income Gap, Jobs, Middle Class, Mitt Romney, Politics, Public Employees, Republicans, Right Wing, Unemployed, Unemployment, Wealthy | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Take Note, Tea Party: Government Workers Got Osama bin Laden

To  the anti-union governors, the Tea Partyers, the whiner down the street who is  convinced that everyone in the public sector enjoys a high salary and benefits  for doing a cushy job, let us consider the government worker whose effort we  have witnessed in the past week.

Let’s start with all the career  intelligence staffers—and this includes those who worked under the Bush  administration—who have been looking for clues for a decade to chase down and  capture or kill Osama bin Laden. These include people who may have had small  successes that led to last week’s big success. Or they may have had enormous  successes we don’t even know about: Who can say how many major terrorist  attacks our teams at the CIA, the Department of Homeland Security, the White House, and the Pentagon have averted through good intelligence work? They can’t  say. It would endanger their work. And when people complain about what they do—or don’t do—they just have to suck it up and keep quiet, lest they tip off  terrorists.

There are some pretty high-level  government workers to thank—President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary  Clinton. First, kudos to Obama for offering Clinton the job at State after a  bruising and testy primary fight. Kudos to Clinton, as well, for accepting it.  Being in government service, at any level, means setting aside personal gripes  for the sake of the public. They both did that. And if Clinton had a problem  with the United States going into Pakistan to get bin Laden—an idea she questioned during the primary  campaign—she surely got over it, and presumably was deeply involved in the  diplomatic gymnastics required before and after the raid.

And how about the Navy SEALs, who  are, after all, government workers as well? They conducted a brilliant surgical  strike on the most wanted man in the world, and we will likely never know their  names, never be able to approach them on the street just to say thanks. They’re  used to that; they are, I imagine, OK with that. Service isn’t about personal  aggrandizement or fame. It’s about doing your job, sometimes anonymously.

And underneath these teams are the  support staff who helped the intelligence workers and high-ranking officials  and military people do their jobs. They, too, helped make this mission happen.

To the antigovernment forces who  repeatedly ask the (hopefully) rhetorical question, “What good is government?  Name me one government program that has worked.” Of course, we can start with  roads and bridges, public libraries, Social Security, public education, and a  raft of other items. But for those who can’t even see the value in those public  works, we have the teams that worked for a decade, over two administrations, to  get bin Laden. This is what your government does, and it was carried out by  government workers. They deserve thanks—not derision.

By: Susan Milligan, U. S. News and Worl Report, May 9, 2011

May 9, 2011 Posted by | Big Government, Conservatives, Democracy, Foreign Policy, GOP, Ground Zero, Homeland Security, Ideologues, Ideology, Middle East, National Security, Neo-Cons, Pentagon, Politics, President Obama, Public Employees, Republicans, Tea Party, Terrorism, Union Busting, Unions | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Threat Of The Tea Party’s Budget Terrorism

Round one of the season’s big budget battle is over, with no real winners. Rounds two and three—the 2012 fiscal year budget and the debt ceiling—are bound to be nastier and more difficult. And it’s not just because budget-cutting is no fun and the Hill is so partisan. It’s that we now have a new element in the war against congressional impasse: the government suicide bomber.

It used to be, in budget battles past, that there was a common element that served as both a brake on emotional decision-making and an impetus for compromise. No one wanted to stop the entire government from operating, to deny basic services to people far away, literally and figuratively, from the partisan fights on the Hill. The floor fights had personal implications, as well, with lawmakers engaging in vitriolic, in-person arguments on the floor. I have a vivid memory of former Rep. Richard Gephardt somehow managing to slam the swinging doors in frustration as he exited the House chamber during one such battle. I remember former Rep. Ron Dellums, dressed exquisitely in a  tuxedo—and not in honor of the budget fight  vgb—as he pleaded for progress so he could attend the wedding of one of his children. “Mr. Speaker, can I please go love my son?” the former California lawmaker said.

As bad as those days were, they at least included a human element, and a common desire to avoid hurting their constituents. Now, lawmakers rarely debate each other on the House floor—they are more likely to come to the floor, make a two- or three-minute speech, then head back to their offices or party caucus meetings. And now, just as we have learned to adapt to airline security in a post-9/11 world, we have to contend with a federal budget terrorist mindset—the camp that is prepared to bring us all down to advance a political mission. What was once an ominous threat is now a battle cry, with antigovernment, Tea Party forces gleefully yelling “shut it down!”—as though all that was needed for peace and prosperity was to send home government workers.

There is a great deal of hypocrisy in some of that crowd; Michael Fletcher smartly reports in the Washington Post about the antigovernment mood in Oklahoma, which as a state benefits greatly from federal largesse. But while worries about the federal debt and deficit are justifiable, contempt for the very existence of government—and, by extension, the democratic process—is not. Members of Congress were elected to serve in the U.S. Capitol, not blow it up.

By: Susan Milligan, U.S. News and World Report, April 11, 2011

April 11, 2011 Posted by | Budget, Class Warfare, Congress, Consumers, Debt Ceiling, Democracy, Democrats, Economy, GOP, Government, Government Shut Down, Lawmakers, Middle Class, Politics, Republicans, Tea Party, Terrorism | , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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