PRESIDENT SIGNS NDAA
December 24, 2016
The 2017 National Defense Authorization Act puts into law new requirements spanning many of DoD’s programs. Most notably, it will entail sweeping changes for the military health care system.
This newly signed legislation puts into law a number of MOAA’s priorities. Specifically, it:
* Secures a 2.1 percent military pay raise vs. the 1.6 percent pay raise proposed by the administration. The 2.1 percent pay raise matches the average American’s, as measured by the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Employment Cost Index.
* Stops the force drawdown and actually increases manpower levels, especially for the Army, Air Force and Marine Corps.
* Requires an array of reforms to improve beneficiaries’ access to timely and high-quality health care.
* Protects currently serving and retired beneficiaries from a variety of steep TRICARE fee increases proposed in the administration’s budget.
* Rejects a Senate proposal to cut housing allowances by $10,000 to $30,000 a year for dual-military couples and other servicemembers who share housing.
* Provides needed survivor benefit improvements: (a) extending the Special Survivor Indemnity Allowance (SSIA) until May 2018 at $310 per month, and (b) increasing Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) annuities for survivors of reservists who die during Inactive Duty Training, to match benefits provided for active duty deaths.
The long list of health care improvement requirements are aimed at addressing the systemic and chronic problems MOAA and others have highlighted with beneficiary access (appointments and referrals), quality of care, and safety and consistency of care.
They include changes in contracting, appointment and referral processes, and holding medical providers and commanders more accountable for productivity and consistency of beneficiary-centric care, especially in military facilities.
One major change affecting TRICARE Standard beneficiaries is that program will change, effective Jan. 1, 2018, to a preferred provider organization called TRICARE Select. Another big difference is all non-Medicare-eligible retired beneficiaries will be required to formally enroll every year in either TRICARE Prime or TRICARE Select, starting in 2018. Previously, only TRICARE Prime required a formal enrollment.
The Prime option, though largely unchanged, will be modernized such that the majority of referrals to specialists from primary care managers will no longer be required to go through a cumbersome pre-authorization process. Pre-authorizations for urgent care will also no longer be required.
All in all, MOAA believes the healthcare reforms required in the new law are very positives steps toward our goal of improving beneficiaries’ access to quality health care and elimination of administrative hassles beneficiaries have experienced too often.