Tuesday, December 20, 2005

TRICARE, health insurance for our citizen-soldiers -- good idea

Congressman Tom Latham’s efforts to secure funding to extend health care benefits to part-time soldiers ranks way up there on the good political deeds of the year list. As reported by Radio Iowa.

Congressman Tom Latham says the deal's nearly sealed and America's part-time soldiers will soon get health care benefits. Soldiers in the Guard and Reserve do not receive federally-paid health care unless they're called to active duty, …

… Latham says it really made a huge difference when he and a bipartisan group of 85 members of the House wrote a letter, saying they believed the federal government should provide health care coverage to members of the Guard and Reserve. Latham began pushing to get health care benefits for part-time soldiers in February. …

… Latham says he had to be "somewhat of a pain in the posterior" of key lawmakers to get approval of the provision. Latham says a lack of health insurance is most acute among Guard and Reserve units in the Midwest, where 40 percent of the part-time soldiers are uninsured. He has argued it's a matter of national security, because many soldiers who're called to active duty need to resolve health issued before they can start their full-time duty.

Graham was able to secure the language in the Senate version of defense budget, but Latham has had a much tougher road in the House. Reps. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, consistently killed the issue by talking price tag. (Duncan Hunter represents the San Deigo area, home to many full-time and retired military personnel with an interest in TRICARE retirement benefits, which went way up under this agreement.) But it looks like Congressman Latham won, at least in the House.

…expanded availability of TRICARE military healthcare to military reservists.

For the first time ever, all reservists who agree to continue service in the Selected Reserves will have an opportunity, depending on their status, to buy into a government subsidized TRICARE Standard health care program for themselves and their families.

This was such a small part of the bill that I had to go all the way Guam's Pacific Islands Magazine for this news; the MSM focused on the ANWR and budget cuts. Sure it’s small, but if the policy is quickly implemented it can be one of those little changes that can help uninsured families with coverage and, perhaps, reduce Iowa’s budget lines for Hawkeye and Medicaid.

The TRICARE Dear Colleague letter (link) includes signatures from Iowa Representatives Latham, Boswell, Leach and King; Nussle opted not to sign this letter suggesting he’s weighing in on this issue behind the scenes. And yeah, Boswell did vote on this roll call.

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