New, bipartisan legislation would help close a gap in health care coverage for National Guard and Reserve service members who are otherwise able to retire early based on their active-duty service.
The TRICARE Fairness for National Guard and Reserve Retirees Act (H.R. 5169), was introduced last week by Rep. Ross Spano, R-Fla.; and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii.
If passed, the bill would align the eligibility age for TRICARE Standard, Extra and Prime with the age at which Guard and Reserve personnel begin receiving their retired pay. The legislation is supported by NGAUS, the Reserve Officers Association and the Enlisted Association of the National Guard of the United States.
“We have heavily relied upon our National Guard and Reserve personnel for the past 20 years, and they have made major contributions to our force structure for over 200 years,” Spano said. “A decade ago, Congress lowered the age they can receive their retired pay based on active duty service. It’s not right that their eligibility for traditional TRICARE was left at age 60.”
Spano said the gap in coverage has resulted in early retirees spending the vast majority, if not all, of their pension on TRICARE premiums, which can be as much as $5,400 each year for those retirees under the age of 60 who purchase TRICARE Retired Reserve.
In comparison, the annual enrollment fee for TRICARE Prime is $297 and TRICARE Select has no yearly enrollment fee.
The gap in coverage for the so-called “gray area” retirees was created following the fiscal year 2008 National Defense Authorization Act, which lowered the retirement age for reserve component personnel but did not reduce the eligibility age for health care.
Gabbard, a major in the Hawaii Army National Guard and one of nine Guardsmen currently serving in Congress, said the technicality created in the 2008 law has added unnecessary costs to health care needed by retirees.
“This bill honors their service and sacrifice by improving their retirement transition and making sure they get the healthcare they have earned,” she said.
Retired Brig. Gen. J. Roy Robinson, NGAUS president, thanked Spano and Gabbard for introducing the bill.
“This fix in the law is long overdue and we strongly endorse quick passage of this important legislation for our retirees,” he said.