AFSA HQ Newsletter – May 15th

This newsletter is produced and released on a weekly basis by AFSA HQ. To read the full newsletter, as well as archived entries, visit the AFSA On Call Newsletter section of www.hqafsa.org.

LEGISLATIVE UPDATES AND USAF RELATED NEWS 

House NDAA Coming to the Floor!

The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2013 (FY13) has been cleared for floor action by the House Armed Services Committee (HASC).  Passed last week by a definitive 56-5 vote, the committee’s mark is expected to reach the House floor this week as H.R. 4310 steams ahead in the process of becoming Law. 

Assuming the legislation gets full House approval; many obstacles still remain in the Senate.  The upper chamber hasn’t started their version of the bill yet but we know several key Members are more supportive of the Pentagon’s plan for higher TRICARE fees.  Others in the Senate are less inclined to tackle some of the social issues addressed in the House bill.   That said, the upcoming elections will most likely play a major role in the timing of actions (or lack thereof) by Congress, and there is a very real possibility that the NDAA won’t clear Capitol Hill until the General Election is over.

Back to the HASC proposal, below are a few highlights of their version of the FY 2013 NDAA which: 

  • Authorizes a 1.7 percent military pay raise and extend many special pays and bonuses
  • Strengthen provisions for combating and prosecuting sexual assault
  • Increases from 21 to 42 the number of days of leave authorized for the primary caregiver following the adoption of a child and establishes 10 days for the non-primary caregiver for dual military couples. 
  • Expresses the sense of  Congress that military people pre-pay large premiums for their health care in retirement through decades of service and sacrifice
  • By silence on the issue, prevents DoD from raising TRICARE Prime premiums above the annual COLA or establishing new fees
  • Caps future pharmacy copay increases at the percentage increase in retired pay
  • Authorizes 180 days of TRICARE Reserve Select health coverage and TRICARE dental coverage for members involuntarily separated from the Selected Reserve
  • Rejects the Pentagon proposal for two additional rounds of Base Reduction and Closure (BRAC) action and bars planning any closures during FY 13
  • Extends certain refinancing help for qualifying service members who can’t sell their homes in conjunction with a military-ordered relocation
  • Protects child custody agreements for parents on a military deployment
  • Extends access to family housing for six months and commissary/exchange benefits for two years for troops who are involuntarily separated
  • Provides $30 million in Impact Aid to civilian school districts with large populations of military children
  • Transfers the popular Troops-to-Teachers program from Department of Education to DoD 

On a related matter, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta was irritated the HASC refused to adopt TRICARE fee hikes for all retired beneficiaries.   During a May 10 DoD news brief Panetta told reporters, “If we’re limited in our ability to put military health care costs on a sustainable track, then Congress would be making all of this more difficult to invest in new technologies that we believe are critical to the force we need for the future.”   One could easily interpret his statement to mean the secretary believes retirees should foot the bill for future DoD initiatives rather than enjoy the benefits they earnedthrough a lifetime of service to that same entity.  If so, that manner of thinking is just plain wrong.

Medicare/TRICARE Doc Fix Bill Introduced

Last week, Representatives Allyson Schwartz (D-PA) and Joe Heck (R-NV) introduced H.R. 5707, the “Medicare Physician Payment Innovation Act” which would repeal the flawed Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) formula used to establish physician reimbursement rates for Medicare and TRICARE patients and reform several aspects of Medicare’s payment and delivery systems.  According to their joint press statement, H.R. 5707: 

  • Permanently repeals the SGR formula and prevents a 30 percent cut to physician reimbursements scheduled for January 1, 2013
  • Provides annual positive payment updates for all physicians for four years
  • Ensures access to preventive care, care coordination, and primary care services through increased payment updates for those services
  • Aggressively tests and evaluates new payment and delivery models
  • Identifies a variety of unique payment models to provide options for providers across medical specialties, practice types, and geographic regions
  • Stabilizes payment rates for providers who demonstrate a commitment to quality and efficiency within a fee-for-service model
  • Ensures long-term stability in the Medicare physician payment system through predictable updates that accurately reflect the cost and value of providing health care services in coordinated care models

 Since 2003, lawmakers have been relying on short-term fixes to address the SGR problem which has become commonly known as the “Doc Fix.”    Their most recent effort in December 2001 prevented a 27.4 percent cut in Medicare physician payment rates on March 1 and froze current payment rates through December 2012.  Unless Congress acts again, an estimated 30 percent cut in payments to doctors that treat Medicare and TRICARE payments will occur on 1 January. 

Finding enough the money to resolve the problem once and for all has been difficult for lawmakers.  A permanent fix involves mandatory spending and current law requires Congress to find an offset.  That hasn’t been easy because it’s a huge amount—experts say it would now cost about $316 billion to stop the reimbursement rate cuts over the next decade.   Adding fuel to the fire, offsets for changes posed in H.R. 5707 come from perceived savings of troop withdrawals inIraqandAfghanistan.  Historically this idea has been extremely controversial and many lawmakers view the maneuver as nothing more than a “Ponzi Scheme.”   In sum, Congress hasn’t been able to agree on where to find the kind of cash they need to permanently fix the problem and that probably won’t change soon.  Lawmakers are likely hold off on any serious discussions regarding the matter until the November General Election is over, meaning this will be one of many key issues that will be decided in the Lame Duck session of Congress later this year. 

Senator Blocks General Promotions

Senator Mark Begich (D-AK) reaffirmed his earlier threat to place a hold on all Air Force officer nominations, posing a potential roadblock to the confirmation of General Mark A. Welsh III as the next Chief of Staff of the Air Force.  Last month, Bottom of Form

Begich placed a hold on Lieutenant General Herbert Carlisle’s promotion to four-star and commander of PACAF.   And he says he won’t budge until the Air Force provides an explanation for plans to move an F-16 aggressor squadron from one Alaska Air Force base to another. “I’m committed to getting answers from the Pentagon, which so far have been inadequate at best.” Begich said. 

112th Congress, 2nd Session

Senate: DC Work Week; contact lawmakers viaWashingtonoffices

House:   DC Work Week; contact lawmakers viaWashingtonoffices           

VETERANS NEWS 

Narrow Escapes of WWII

Military Channel’s all-new series honors the incredible heroes of World War II who stood up and fought when everything else seemed lost. The series highlights the brilliant generals and brave troops whose selfless acts of courage saved hundreds of thousands of innocent lives. Through their personal stories, this series recreates the suicidal raids, rearguard actions, and back-to-the-wall fighting it took to ensure, against all odds, that these men made it out alive. NARROW ESCAPES OF WWII makes itsU.S.premiere Tuesday, May 15 at 10 PM E/P on the Military Channel. 

The 13-episode first season includes (advance screeners www.press.discovery.com):

  • The Doolittle Raid – Premieres Tuesday, May 15 at 10 PM E/P; To avenge the attack onPearl Harbor,U.S. bombers staged an astonishing long-distance strike onTokyo, all the while knowing they were unlikely to return alive.
  • The AmiensRaid – Premieres Tuesday, May 22 at 10 PM E/P; The Mosquito fighter planes behind Operation Jericho, led by Group Capt. Percy Charles Pickard, brought about the bombing ofAmiens prison in German-occupiedFrance so that French Resistance fighters and Allied spies could escape before their execution day.
  • Wingate & the Chindits – Premieres Tuesday, May 29 at 10 PM E/P; Surrounded by the Japanese, Orde Wingate led the 77th Indian Infantry Brigade in one of the most imaginative and complex escapes of World War II. 

HEALTHCARE 

Preventive Care

Are you aware of TRICARE’s preventive care benefit?   It covers comprehensive health promotion and disease prevention examinations and other services to keep you healthy. Visit here for more information. 

Mental Health Awareness Month

Mental Health Awareness Month continues all through May.  Check out the TRICARE Mental Health Resource Center for important contact information and links to programs that could help you or someone you know. 

AFSA MEMBER BENEFITS 

Insurance: Life and Health

For information and applications on any of these insurance plans please contact Marsh Affinity Group Services toll-free at (800) 882-5541, or online here.   Coverage may vary or not be issued in all states. 

  • Accidental Death & Dismemberment Insurance Plan
  • Cancer Expense Insurance
  • Group Dental Insurance
  • Long-Term Care Insurance
  • Short-Term Recovery Insurance Plan
  • TRICARE Supplement Insurance
  • Life Line Health Screenings 

Discount Prescription Card

AFSA members & dependents have a Prescription Discount Benefit!   Cut your prescription costs up to 20 percent on brand-name drugs and save as much as 50 percent on generic medicines with the RxAmerica program.   To print your prescription card click here, select “wellness”, then choose “RX AmericaPrescription Plan”. 

2012 Professional Airman’s Conference

AFSA hosted PAC registration is now available on the web for theJacksonville,Florida, events, August 11-15.  You are encouraged to sign up early and make your Hyatt Regency room reservation at the AFSA special rate while that special is available. Additionally, why not advertise your Division or Chapter in the PAC magazine?  Contact AFSA Marketing for details. 

Advertising with AFSA

To advertise with AFSA, contact: AFSA Marketing at (301) 899-3500 ext. 242 or 244, e-mail: marketing@hqafsa.org 

WORTH REPEATING 

“The Navy’s battle force in the last eight years has been cut by one third. And the Air Force reports that it is now called on to mount four times as many operations with a force that has been cut by 40 percent” 

— General Norman Schwarzkopf, August 14, 2000 

We want to hear your thoughts and opinions.  What’s your top 10 list for AFSA?  

Go ahead send it.  Don’t be bashful.   Click HERE to send


Click HERE to receive this newsletter            Click HERE to access AFSA CAPWIZ

This newsletter is produced and released on a weekly basis by AFSA HQ. To read the full newsletter, as well as archived entries, visit the AFSA On Call Newsletter section of www.hqafsa.org.

Ready to join?

AFSA Legislative Action Center

Legislative Action Center
Follow the issues and write letters to your Congressman!

Take Action!

Find and contact your Senator and Representatives!

Subscribe via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this website and receive notifications of new posts by email.