FRA NewsBytes - 11-8-2013

Committees Work on Permanent “Doc Fix” as Deadline Approaches

The House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee released a discussion draft outline for legislation to permanently fix the broken Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) formula that is used to determine reimbursement for doctors serving Medicare and TRICARE patients. Unless Congress acts by January 1, 2014, physician payments will be cut by approximately 24.4 percent.

In July, the House Energy and Commerce Committee approved (H.R. 2810), sponsored by Rep. Michael Burgess (Texas), to make the so-called “doc fix” permanent by repealing the antiquated SGR formula and replacing it with a fair, stable, simplified system of physician payments for Medicare and TRICARE programs. Building on that effort, the House Ways and Means and Senate Finance Committees are working with Rep. Burgess to resolve differences between the draft legislation and the House and Energy Commerce Committee bill (H.R. 2810) to make the “doc fix” permanent. Over the past decade, Congress has spent nearly $150 billion on short-term SGR overrides to prevent pending cuts.

FRA supports the permanent repeal of the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) formula that dictates reimbursement rates paid to physicians who serve Medicare and TRICARE patients. Under that formula, Medicare/TRICARE physician reimbursements cuts scheduled for January 1, 2014 may prompt some providers to stop seeing Medicare and TRICARE patients. Now is the time to ask your Representative to make the “doc fix” permanent by going to the FRA Action Center at http://www.capwiz.com/fra/issues/alert/?alertid=62788456.

Bill Introduced to Protect Military Retirees from “Pension Advances”

Rep. Matthew Cartwright (Penn.) has introduced the “Annuity Safety and Security Under Reasonable Enforcement (ASSURE) Act” (H.R. 3310), which expands protections for military retirees under the “Truth in Lending Act.” The bill recognizes that predatory lenders go to great lengths to target and mislead military retirees regarding “pension advances.” The New York Times has reported that some “pension-based” loans have effective interest rates, after factoring in various fees, from 27 percent to 106 percent. The bill caps the interest rate on such a transaction at six percent above prime, and allows for a private right of action regarding military retired pay and federal pension assignments. Shipmates are urged to use the FRA Action Center to ask their Representative to support this bill by going to http://www.capwiz.com/fra/issues/alert/?alertid=62991116.

To read the NY Times article, go to http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/28/business/economy/pension-loans-drive-retirees-into-more-debt.html?_r=1&.

Retirement Commission Begins Public Hearings

The nine-member Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission, created by the FY 2013 NDAA, has held a series of hearings this week in the Washington, DC area, and will continue to seek input from various interested parties. The commission has been charged to review “the full breadth of the systems,” including healthcare, military family support, and any federal programs that could influence the decision of current or future service members to stay in uniform or leave the service. Before making their final recommendations to Congress and the President, the commission must examine the impacts of proposed recommendations on currently serving members, retirees, spouses, children and survivors.

Before public hearings began, The Military Coalition (TMC) provided past relevant written testimony to the commission, including testimony provided by Past NED Joe Barnes before the Senate Armed Services Personnel Subcommittee in April 2013 regarding FRA’s 2013 legislative agenda, and testimony provided by FRA DLP John Davis before the House Armed Services Committee in October 2011 regarding FRA’s opposition to the Defense Business Board (DBB) report, which recommended replacement of the current military retirement system with a 401 (k) program. TMC provided a written statement, new testimony was provided by Col. Mike Hayden (ret.), TMC Co-chairman and Director of Government Relations for the Military Officers Association of America. FRA will provide a written statement to the commission that will include FRA’s 2014 Legislative Agenda, which was approved at the 86th National Convention in Chattanooga, Tenn. October 16–19, 2013. FRA will closely monitor the commission’s deliberations and oppose any recommendations to “civilianize” military pay and benefits.

TRICARE Overseas Information Available

TRICARE has released a five-page newsletter for TRICARE Overseas Program (TOP) beneficiaries. The issue includes articles about getting TRICARE resources online, minimum essential coverage with TRICARE, signing up for e-mails from TRICARE, submitting proof of payment with overseas claims, how your TRICARE coverage moves with you, using your TOP Prime benefit when you travel, and aeromedical evacuations for urgent and emergency care overseas.

To download a copy of this newsletter, visit http://www.tricare.mil/overseas and click on your overseas region for information regarding your TRICARE overseas benefits.