Guard, Reserve have unique health care challenges
WASHINGTON (NGAUS) — A representative for three military associations that give voice to 1.1 million National Guardsmen and Reservists told a House panel this morning that military health-care reform must address the unique challenges faced by reserve-component service members.
“Most Guardsmen and Reservists do not live on or near large military installations,” Scott Bousum, the legislative director for the Enlisted Association of the National Guard of the United States, told the House Armed Services’ military personnel subcommittee.
“As a result, many of our members drive hundreds of miles to appointments only to be referred to a specialist, who may or may not be available under TRICARE [the military’s health care delivery system].”
This affects medical readiness, which has an impact on overall military readiness at a time when the Guard and Reserve are critical to national security, Bousum said.
Another issue, he said, is continuity of care. There are 30 different Guard and Reserve duty statuses, some of which provide different levels of health care.
The final report of the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission (MCRMC) earlier this year called on Congress to consolidate the 30 into six broader statuses citing gaps in coverage during transition periods.
“Congress should not address military health-care reform without first reviewing a very complex personnel system,” Bousum said.
Citing MCRMC recommendations, the House and Senate armed services committees have promised to take a look at military health care with an eye toward reforms that would improve care and save money.
EANGUS, NGAUS and the Reserve Officers Association, which pooled efforts on today’s testimony, have committed to working with Congress.
“Reforming military health care will be difficult, perhaps even a small amount of pain for some,” said retired Maj. Gen. Gus Hargett, the NGAUS president. “But there is clear consensus that improvements must be made for the good of military readiness and retention, and we make no progress by maintaining the status quo.”
Said Jeffrey Philips, the ROA executive director, “We would not send our Guard and Reserves to war without good training, leadership, and equipment; three corners of the readiness foundation. Health care is the fourth corner in that foundation. Without continuity of quality health care, America cannot be fully ready. We cannot deter, we cannot fight.”