When I joined the United States Air Force in February 1980 as a wide-eyed 17 year old, it was a very different institution. One of the things the recruiter told me before I signed up was that the military and U.S. Government was going to cover my military expenses for life up to and including end-of-life care at no cost to me or my family.

Those promises are long gone now, and I have grown to accept it. We military types learn early on that we are usually better off to salute smartly and march on. My intent here is to outline what I think the full implementation of Obama Care would mean to me and the other military Veterans of this country.

The primary means of health insurance to active duty personnel is something called Tri-Care Prime. This is basically a policy provided to military members to take care of their health care costs when they are not being treated at a military treatment facility (MTF).

As such, it ends up being a secondary policy to the military hospitals and clinics. Once a person is no longer on active duty there are two possible avenues that are available to the veteran. If one has served less than 20 years, which is the mandatory amount of time to retire from service, the Veterans Administration (VA) has VA hospitals across the country where a veteran can receive care. Anyone who has kept up with events over the last 20 or so years has seen that VA facilities, being run by the Government, have their own issues.

This is really the only option for the non-retired veteran. The co-pays and costs are aligned with Medicare. The next option is Tri-Care. A veteran who has completed at least 20 years of honorable service to their country and has retired from active duty can enroll in Tri-Care. Most take Tri-Care Prime, which mandates they go to a MTF and be referred for any care that cannot be provided at that facility.

Retirees are treated on an “as available” basis, because active duty personnel have priority, which is as it should be. Those of us who live over 50 miles from a MTF are allowed to make a civilian clinic or hospital our primary care provider as long as they are on a list of providers that can be used for that purpose. In fairness, Tri-Care premiums for people like me are very low when compared to civilian policies, but one must keep in mind that most of us were promised “no-cost care” all those long years ago.

The annual cost for Tri-Care Prime is $260.00 for an individual and $520.00 for a family. However, the government attempts to raise those at every opportunity.

I fully expect they will go up no matter who is in power. I pay $12.00 for a standard doctor’s visit, plus the cost above. It is a great benefit and one of the main reasons many choose to stay in the military until retirement. That’s where we are now.

Here is what I see in my crystal ball with Obama Care, if it does not go away at some point prior to full implementation. How long do you think it will take some Government bean counter to take notice that the military veterans have a whole different and costly healthcare setup? Someone’s career will be made when they suggest this.

Why not just roll these guys up with everyone else? After all, we all have health coverage now. It’s not like they need something different. It will save the Government and military a great deal of money and once again break faith with those who have served.

This, in my opinion, WILL HAPPEN. I have worked in and around the U.S. Government my entire adult life and I know how it works. When it does, it will take close to 50% of my and other veteran’s benefits we have EARNED and flush them down the toilet. We will get the same coverage as a bum who never worked a day in their life, much less listened to bullets wiz by their head, slept on the ground in all weather, watched buddies torn up bodies convulse for the last time or wondered how their kids are doing this Christmas as they are doing all the above.

It’s not right and I fear it is where we are going.

People in this country say they love their Veterans, but I don’t think they have any idea what they are going to be doing, in the name of providing someone healthcare, who CHOSE not to pay for it.

Thomas Robinson
SMSgt, USAF RET.