Wilson Opening Statement for Hearing on Military Health System Overview and Defense Health Program Cost Efficiencies
The Armed Services Military Personnel Subcommittee today launched the first in a series of hearings to analyze the Administration’s Fiscal Year 2011 for military health programs with the Department of Defense. Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.), the chairman of the subcommittee, released the following opening statement for today’s hearing on Defense Health Program cost efficiencies and the Military Health System:
“Today the Subcommittee meets to hear testimony on the Military Health System and the Defense Health Program for Fiscal Year 2012. I would like to begin by acknowledging the remarkable military and civilian medical professionals who provide extraordinary care to our service members and their families along with veterans, here at home and around the world, often in some of the toughest and most austere environments. I have recently returned from Balad and Bagram where I am always appreciative of the professionals who have saved so many American, Iraqi, and Afghani lives. I have firsthand knowledge of their dedication and sacrifice from my second son, who has served in Iraq and is now an orthopedic resident in the Navy. As a grateful dad, in a military family, I was reassured as to the medical care available for my Army son and Air Force nephew who both served in Iraq.
“The subcommittee remains committed to ensuring that the men and women who are entrusted with the lives of our troops have the resources to continue their work for future generations of our most deserving military beneficiaries. Even in this tight fiscal environment, the Military Heath System must continue to provide world class health care to our beneficiaries and remain strong and viable in order to maintain that commitment to future beneficiaries.
“The Department of Defense has proposed several measures aimed at reducing the cost of providing health care to our service members and their families and military veterans. While I appreciate that your plan is a more comprehensive approach than previous cost cutting efforts, the challenge here is finding the balance between fiscal responsibility while maintaining a viable and robust military health system. We must be sure to remember these proposals have complex implications that go ‘beyond beneficiaries.’ They will also affect the people who support the defense health system, such as pharmacists, hospital employees, and contractors.
“The subcommittee has a number of concerns about the Department’s initiatives. To that end, we would expect the Department’s witnesses to address our concerns, including that:
· “The proposed TRICARE Prime fee increase for Fiscal Year 2012, while appearing to be modest, is a 13 percent increase over the current rate. The Department of Defense (DOD) proposes increasing the fee in the out years based on an inflation index. You suggest 6.2 percent but it is unclear exactly which index you are using?
· “You plan to reduce the rate that TRICARE pays Sole Community Hospitals for inpatient care provided to our active duty, family members and retirees. Several of these hospitals are located very close to military bases; in fact some are right outside the front gates, especially important for 24-hour emergency care. What analysis have you done to determine whether reducing these rates will affect access to care for our beneficiaries and in particular the readiness of our armed forces?
“I would also like our witnesses to discuss the range of efficiency options that were considered but not included in the President’s budget. I would appreciate hearing your views on the recent GAO recommendations included in their report on Federal duplication, overlap and fragmentation. GAO made recommendations regarding establishing a unified medical command and for DOD to finally jointly modernize their electronic health records system with the VA.
“In addition, I would like to hear from the military surgeons about efforts they are taking within the military departments to increase the efficiency of the military health system and reduce costs. I would also like the military surgeons’ views on areas where additional efficiencies can be gained across the DOD health system.
“The Department of Defense recently announced that they have hired Governor John Baldacci, former Governor of Maine, to undertake a full scale review of military health care and the impacts of military health care on the force. I would appreciate hearing from Dr. Stanley the considerations for this review and what the Department hopes to gain from Governor Baldacci’s efforts. Why is having a ‘Military Health Care Czar’ not a duplication of the duties already assumed by Undersecretary Stanley and Assistant Secretary Woodson?
“Finally, I would like to make it clear that in an effort to reduce the cost of military health care and find efficiencies in the military health system we must never lose sight of the population that the military medical system serves. The members of the Armed Forces and their families who currently serve and those who served as veterans for a full career in the past warrant the best health care available. Reducing cost must never result in reduced quality or the availability to the health care they earned and they deserve.
“I hope that our witnesses will address these important issues as directly as possible in their oral statements and in response to Member questions.”