Defense of Military Health Insurance System Backfires, as Families Left Out of New Benefit

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Thanks to the new healthcare reform law, Americans will have the choice of keeping their children on their insurance plans until age 26—unless the policyholder happens to be in the military, where adult child coverage stops at 21, or 23 if the child is at college. During the long debate over how to revise the healthcare system, some Republicans claimed that the Democrat-sponsored bill would threaten coverage for TRICARE, the medical insurance program for the armed forces. In response, the House voted 403-0 to leave TRICARE untouched. This meant that military families were left out of the new provision that also gives civilians the choice of putting dependants back on their policies.

Lawmakers are now scrambling to correct their mistake by adding an amendment to a defense authorization bill in the House. But it may still be a while before service personnel will have this new benefit at their disposal, given that the legislation may not be approved until later this year, and the Department of Defense will need time to implement it. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the expanded coverage for military dependents will cost more than $900 million over the next five years.
-Noel Brinkerhoff, David Wallechinsky


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