- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Tricare increase

While most of political Washington has been consumed with the debate over how to make health care more accessible to low-income Americans, the government unexpectedly raised rates by more than 20 percent on the in-patient co-payments that must be paid by retired military veterans and their families who have their health insurance provided by Veterans Affairs.

The Defense Department announced the rate increase Sept. 30, and it went into effect the next day, Oct. 1, taking several military advocates by surprise. The increase raises prices for retirees and their family members from $535 per day to $645 per day, or 25 percent of billed charges, whichever is less. Once bills meet a $3,000 cap, however, the beneficiary will pay no more costs for that calendar year.

Active-duty solders will see a modest increase. Their fees are now $16.30 per day, up from $15.65.

The Military Officers Association of America (MOAA) sent letters to the House, the Senate and the Department of Defense protesting the rate increases. MOAA President Norbert Ryan’s letter to Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said, “This is a shocking announcement that is extremely disappointing given your public assurances earlier this year that the Defense Department would not be proposing any Tricare fee increases for FY2010.”

He went on to say that veterans “believe, as we do, that the current $535 per day retiree inpatient co-pay is already far larger than inpatient co-pays under most civilian insurance plans. We dont understand how a further 21 percent increase to $645 meets any standard of equity or reasonableness for the most seriously ill and injured beneficiaries to whom it would apply.”

A spokesman for Tricare Management Activity said that the program was required to raise fees unless Congress says otherwise, as it has in the past.

“For the previous two years, Congress passed legislation to freeze these rates, and this time they did not,” spokesman Austin Camacho said.

Media missteps

The same day the government issued a report saying Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke and former Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. misled the public about the weakness of big banks the government was bailing out, a Pew Research Center poll evaluated the reporters who covered the financial crisis.

The Project for Excellence in Journalism (PEJ) found the media mainly reported these stories “from the perspective of the Obama administration and big business, with coverage reflecting the corners of institutions more than the lives of everyday Americans.”

PEJ researchers examined about 9,950 stories that were on television, radio, cable, newspapers and online between Feb. 1 and Aug. 31 and looked for “precise phrases and ideas that resonated most fully in the media.” The three most dominant stories that emerged from the crisis were efforts to save banks, the debate over President Obamas $787 billion stimulus package, and the problems in the U.S. auto industry.

Most of these stories - 76 percent - came from reporters based in Washington or New York, and 49 percent of all stories were promoted by some kind of government action.

PEJ also listed the top five newsmakers through the crisis. They are, beginning with the leading newsmaker: Mr. Obama, Bernard Madoff, Timothy F. Geithner, Mr. Bernanke and Robert Gibbs.

Noted and quoted

“What I suspect is that the president is probably a clinical narcissist … I know that the president believes himself a good man. My nervy query to him is: “Does he believe America to be a good country?”

- Martin Peretz, editor-in-chief of the liberal-leaning New Republic, criticizing President Obama in a piece titled “Rio, 1 - Chicago, 0. The Politics of Narcissism and General McChrystal”

Amanda Carpenter can be reached at acarpenter@ washingtontimes.com.

• Amanda Carpenter can be reached at acarpenter@washingtontimes.com.

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