WASHINGTON, D.C. — This week, U.S. Senator Jacky Rosen (D-NV) helped introduce the bipartisan TRICARE Reserve Improvement Act with Senator Steve Daines (R-MT), Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), Senator John Hoeven (R-ND), Senator John Boozman (R-AR), and Senator Jon Tester (D-MT). Under current law, Guardsmen and Reservists are eligible for health insurance through TRICARE Reserve Select, a TRICARE health insurance system created just for them. However, federal employees who are also Reserve Component servicemembers are ineligible for TRICARE Reserve Select coverage and instead must purchase much more expensive federal health insurance. This bill would bring parity to these servicemembers. As a then-Member of the Armed Services Committee, Rosen co-led similar legislation last year in the U.S. House with Representative Trent Kelly (R-MS).
“I helped lead this bipartisan effort in the House and am proud to now work with my colleagues in the Senate to expand access to affordable health care for our servicemembers,” said Senator Rosen. “Our brave men and women in uniform sacrifice so much to defend our freedoms. This bill takes important steps to allow all servicemembers in the Reserve Component, regardless of whether they are a federal employee, to access affordable, quality care under the TRICARE Reserve Select health program, allowing them to choose their own health care plans based on quality and cost of care.”
BACKGROUND: Currently, federal employees who are serving our country as Guardsmen or Reservists can only get their health coverage through the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP). However, FEHBP plans are prohibitively expensive for some, even with the federal cost-share. TRICARE Reserve Select, which is also a quality coverage program, is more affordable, but is unavailable to Guard/Reserve federal employees, including thousands of military mechanics, many of whom work at Nellis Air Force Base. The limitation does not exist for Reservists and Guardsmen working in the private sector, even though they too may have access to alternative health insurance through their employer. In addition to expanding coverage, the change proposed by Rosen’s legislation would save the federal government $1.3 billion over ten years by lowering the cost to the government for the FEHB program and broadening the risk pool for TRICARE Reserve Select by bringing in new participants. Furthermore, allowing all Guardsmen and Reservists access to TRICARE Reserve Select will limit the bureaucratic hurdles faced by federal employee servicemembers and their families when the servicemember is mobilized to Active Duty and must find physicians who accept TRICARE, rather than FEHB.
In addition to co-leading this legislation, Rosen was one of five original co-sponsors in the House of the FAIR Heroes Act, bipartisan legislation that would provide disabled veterans, who are medically retired from the military, the ability to choose between TRICARE and Medicare Part B, whichever health plan works best for their families. That bill could potentially save many veterans up to $1,300 a year on their health care costs.