Skyrocketing prescription drug costs have blown a hole in the Pentagon’s health care budget but lawmakers disagree on how to lower these costs, with many of them unwilling to alter military benefits.
Some senators, including Armed Services Chairman John McCain, support a Pentagon proposal to gradually raise co-payments for families of service members as well as retirees and their dependents for drugs purchased at retail stores and through a mail-order program.
Some House members oppose the measure, arguing that these beneficiaries should not be asked to pay more.
While co-pays have been raised before, including a slight increase last year, these changes have not kept pace with rising prices.
The Defense Health Agency says it faces a $2 billion shortfall this year due to rising drug costs and increased use of specialty drugs. The agency wants lawmakers to shift other defense funding to cover the shortfall.
Lawmakers should consider reasonable changes to military health benefits so they do not crowd out spending on vital items such as troop readiness and equipment maintenance.
That debate comes as military officials face scrutiny from lawmakers and the public over the high price tags for weapons development, including a recent $9 billion increase in the estimated cost to develop a new long-range bomber. Such increases should remind lawmakers and military leaders alike of the need to allocate budgetary resources as efficiently as possible.
Rising Drug Costs the Real Stumbling Block for Defense Measure (Bloomberg)
Air Force Gets Wrong Price Tag for New, Budget-Busting Bomber (Fiscal Times)
Approaches to Reduce Federal Spending on Military Compensation (CBO)