Bill would expand no-fee health care to Reserve, Guard

Congressman Andy Kim (NJ-03) and Congressman Trent Kelly (MS-01) have introduced the Healthcare for our Troops Act, a bill that would make no-fee healthcare available to the over 800,000 Americans serving our nation in the Reserve and National Guard. The bipartisan bill is co-sponsored by the two co-chairs of the National Guard and Reserve Caucus, Congressman Tim Ryan (OH-13) and Congressman Steven Palazzo (MS-04), as well as Congressman Scott DesJarlais (TN-04), Congresswoman Elise Stefanik (NY-21) and Congressman Marc Veasey (TX-33).

“Americans who wear the uniform and protect our nation should not be without healthcare. It’s that simple,” said Congressman Kim. “We owe our Reservists and National Guard so much, and this bill fulfills a basic bipartisan promise: that we will be there for them as they are there for us every day to keep our country safe. I want to thank Congressman Kelly for his partnership on this mission to make sure that every one of our Reservists and National Guard members has the health care they deserve. I look forward to working with our colleagues across the aisle to get this across the finish line and deliver for those who serve.”

The bill would ensure that every member of the Reserves and National Guard, including the roughly 130,000 members who don’t have private health insurance, can access TRICARE Reserve Select at no cost. The bill also addresses a recent call by the head of the National Guard Bureau, Army General Daniel Hokanson, for no-cost healthcare for every member of the National Guard. General Hokanson called the issue, “one of my most pressing concerns.”

“From being deployed nonstop, protecting our nation’s capital, and handling pandemic relief efforts, we witnessed an unprecedented use of our military,” said Congressman Kelly. “Current bureaucratic policies prevent some of our service members from having the same healthcare benefits as their counterparts on active-duty. Providing health care for all service members is a readiness issue that is easily fixed. Our Guardsmen and Reservists deserve to have access to preventive and routine healthcare. The Healthcare for our Troops Act ensures that no military member will have to worry about paying for medical bills.”

Specifically, if enacted, the Healthcare for our Troops Act would:

  • Ensure Reservists and National Guard members have no-fee healthcare through TRICARE Reserve Select that covers medical and dental coverage
  • Increases military readiness by ensuring service members can access physicals needed to be ready for no-notice deployments which have increased over the past year
  • Provide an incentive for small businesses to hire Reserve and National Guard members by ensuring their healthcare costs are covered
  • Require a study on eliminating annual physicals during drill and replacing them with forms to be completed by civilian providers to assess medical readiness–giving commanders back valuable training days and saving over $162 Million annually in contracted medical assessments
  • Eliminate the statutory language that excludes Federal Employees Health Benefits Program eligible service members from TRICARE Reserve Select eligibility.
  • Fix the parity gap for Reserve Component retirees receiving early retirement pay due to deployment credits making them eligible for TRICARE upon receipt of retirement pay

“As a Co Chair of the National Guard and Reserve Caucus, I could not be more proud of the work that these service members have done for our country – especially over this last year,” said Congressman Ryan. “But back-to-back deployments, whether overseas or here at home, take their toll. This legislation represents a huge step forward in making sure our citizen Soldiers, Airmen, Sailors, and Marines not only have access to the health care they need to take care of themselves, but also to do their jobs. I’m honored to support this bill,”

“I am proud to support the Tricare Reserve Select expansion bill, to ensure that our National Guard and Reserve members are not over-paying for the healthcare they deserve. As a Mississippi National Guardsman and Co-chair of the National Guard and Reserve Caucus, I can attest to how this legislation improves Tricare by increasing affordability and retention rates,” said Congressman Palazzo. “This year, we saw our National Guardsmen and Reservists drop everything to serve this country. They have had our backs, this bill helps us have theirs.”

This bill has the support of: National Guard Association of the U.S. (NGAUS), Military Officers Association of America (MOAA), Enlisted Association of the National Guard of the U.S. (EANGUS), Association of the United States Army (AUSA), Chief Warrant Officers Association of the U.S. Coast Guard, Naval Enlisted Reserve Association, Reserve Organization of America (formerly Reserve Officers Association), Air Force Sergeants Association, VoteVets, and the Wounded Warrior Project.

DeSoto County News Service

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