FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 16, 2009
WASHINGTON – Congressman Joe Wilson (R-SC) delivered the following statement this evening during debate over his amendment to protect TRICARE for our military, veterans, and their families from the Democrat government takeover of our health care system.
“The purpose of this amendment is to shield the men and women of our armed forces from onerous mandates and possible coverage deterioration as a result of this bill’s complex new health care governing scheme. Specifically, I believe we must exempt TRICARE from the “pay or play” employer mandate and other benefit mandates that would place an additional burden on this program that serves military personnel and their families.
“As a 31-year Army Guard and Reserve veteran, I know the importance of TRICARE. I know it is important for the military personnel and families at the bases I represent at Fort Jackson, Parris Island, the Marine Corps Air Station at Beaufort, and Beaufort Naval Hospital. I am grateful to have four sons now serving in the military, and I know that their families appreciate the availability of TRICARE.
“Currently, TRICARE provides world class health care to 9.4 million beneficiaries who currently serve or have served this nation. The number of individuals who choose to enroll in TRICARE continues to rise because TRICARE is a low cost, comprehensive health plan that is portable and available in some form world-wide. TRICARE has been steadily improving since it was implemented in 1996, promoted by my predecessor the late Armed Services Committee Chairman Floyd Spence. In fact, in 2008 TRICARE was rated the best health care insurer in the nation according to the Wilson Health Information survey of customer satisfaction. TRICARE also received stellar marks on the 2007 annual federal government report from the 2007American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI).
“I believe TRICARE is one part of our health care system that’s working. The President and Congressional Democrats have said repeatedly that if you like what you have, you can keep it. I believe that our military personnel and their families do like what they have, and that’s why this amendment is needed to ensure that they can keep it.
“Unfortunately, this legislation’s broad definition of “employment-based health plan” appears to include TRICARE, which means its complex new system of mandates and penalties would apply to the Department of Defense.
“This may have been inadvertent on the part of the majority. After all, changes that impact TRICARE are always debated in a bipartisan way in the House Armed Services Committee. It is an honor for me to serve with Chairwoman Susan Davis as the Ranking Member on the Military Personnel Subcommittee. It would be unprecedented for us to make a change of this magnitude without consideration of the consequences for the DOD and our military personnel.
“In order to correct what may have been an unintentional error, my amendment simply clarifies that TRICARE is not subject to H.R. 3200’s new mandate and penalty scheme or any other elements of the legislation. It’s about allowing our brave soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines to keep what they have.
“If anyone claims that the bill is not intended to cover TRICARE, it is all the more critical that they vote for this simple clarifying amendment to make sure that the bill is absolutely clear on this point.”