Wes Hickman (202-224-5972) or Kevin Bishop (864-250-1417)
- Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) today announced that the Department of Defense Authorization bill conference report finalized today includes an amendment that will improve TRICARE benefits for National Guard members and Reservists, allowing all members of the Selected Reserve and their families to enroll in TRICARE with an across the board cost-sharing of 28 percent. Today’s victory builds on the Senators’ longstanding commitment to ensuring that members of our National Guard and Reserve and their families have access to the health care benefits they need and deserve.
“I’m pleased that after three years of work the House and Senate have finally agreed to make military health care coverage available to every member of the Guard and Reserve,” said Graham. “This long overdue benefit will help our recruitment, retention, and readiness efforts for our stressed reserve component. Every reservist and their family will be able to enjoy continuity of care, whether they are called to active duty or not. I appreciate the support of Senator Clinton in this effort along with Senators DeWine, Leahy, Chambliss, Allen, Warner and Levin. Senator Clinton and I have been fortunate to have very good allies in this effort and Congress has stepped up to the plate to meet the health care needs of our Guard and Reserves.”
“I am proud that we have taken another step forward for our National Guard members and Reservists and their families. All members of the Selected Reserve and their families will now have access to TRICARE benefits, at one modest premium rate, regardless of their deployment status. This is the right thing to do for these brave men and women who are serving courageously on our behalf. This will also help ensure that our National Guard members and Reservists are medically ready to serve, which is critical to improving our preparedness,” said Senator Clinton.
Senators Graham and Clinton first proposed expanding access to TRICARE for Guard Members and Reservists in 2003 when they introduced the National Guard and Reserves Reform Act for the 21st Century. Since then, they have worked steadily toward this goal, steadily securing expansions in TRICARE benefits for Guardsmen and Reservists.
Last year, Senators Clinton and Graham secured passage of an amendment to the DoD Authorization bill that made all members of the Selected Reserve eligible to enroll in TRICARE and created a separate category based on whether a Guard member or Reservist had been deployed. Category 1 for members of the Selected Reserves who had been activated: members would accumulate one year of TRICARE coverage for every 90 days of active duty service and would only have to pay 28 percent of the cost. Category 2 established a 50-50 cost share for those without health insurance due to unemployment or lack of employer-provided coverage. And Category 3 covered the remainder of members of the Selected Reserve who did not fit in the other categories, allowing them to buy into coverage at an 85 percent cost share.
This built on expanded eligibility the Senators previously secured. In October 2004, legislation co-sponsored by Senators Graham and Clinton was signed into law as part of the Department of Defense Authorization bill which provided an extension of one additional year of TRICARE eligibility to Guard and Reserve members for every 90 days the Reservist or Guardsman serves. This expanded eligibility program went into effect at the Department of Defense in April 2005.
The Graham-Clinton TRICARE efforts have gained support from many groups including the National Guard Association of the United States, the Reserve Officers Association, and the National Governors Association.
The DoD Authorization bill conference report will now go to the Senate and House floors for approval and then to the President’s desk to be signed into law.