Daines Introduces Bill to Protect Over 9,500 Montana Veterans from Losing Health Care

U.S. SENATE – Last week, U.S. Senator Steve Daines introduced the “TRICARE Retired Protection Act” to ensure that Montana’s 9,500 military retirees will not lose health care as a result of new policy changes taking effect January 1st, 2021.

“Our Montana veterans dedicated their lives to defending our freedom and way of life. We must do all we can to ensure our retired Montana heroes have the healthcare they earned,” Daines said. “That’s why I introduced my bill to prevent Montana veterans from losing coverage.”

In 2017, Congress enacted a series of personnel reforms proposed by former Defense Secretary Ash Carter under the Obama Administration, including new fees on TRICARE health plans for beneficiaries who do not receive care at a military treatment facility and an “open season” enrollment period mirroring Obama’s Affordable Care Act.

This month, military retirees in Montana received notices that beneficiaries who fail to establish a monthly payment plan between November 9, 2020 and December 14, 2020, would only be able to receive care at a military facility on a space-available basis.  Calls and letters received by Senator Daines’ office expressed frustration from veterans caught unaware by the changes.  One leading veteran service organization has appealed to Congress and DoD for relief to help veterans adjust to the new changes.

Military retirees are showing support for Daines’ legislation.

“After 18 years in the United States Air Force, in 1985, I retired as a Master Sergeant.  When I enlisted and again when I retired, I was told that my family and I would have medical care covered for life.  As I retired from the Military they gave me the option to get Tricare free of charge, which I gladly took. Now years later, a one page letter that could have easily been thrown away as junk mail, came in with information that I would have approximately 3 weeks between November and December to call and arrange for payments of $25 per month for Tricare, or lose my coverage. This is the first I have heard of this and I am concerned for those military retirees who have not seen the letter and have no idea they may lose their medical insurance. The letter states that if we do not call in, we will lose Tricare and have the option of going to a local military hospital.  The DOD rules indicate that to be seen as a retiree at a military hospital you must live within 40 miles of that hospital. Here in Montana that is almost an impossibility for most military retirees.  This mandate should be rescinded and at the very least military retirees should be allowed up to a year to call in to be certain the medical insurance and care for themselves and their families is continued as promised.” – John Shelman, Missoula

For more information on TRICARE changes, or to establish a payment plan, click here.