If there’s one issue where Rep. Michael Waltz believes Congress can come together, it’s providing for America’s service members and veterans.
The St. Augustine Republican held a press conference Thursday with Rep. Elaine Luria, a Virginia Democrat, where the House colleagues spoke about the Health Care Fairness for Military Families Act introduced this week.
The legislation would allow dependents on Tricare, the health care program for the Department of Defense, to stay on parents’ insurance until age 26.
Waltz, an Army veteran and still a colonel in the National Guard, said it’s important to provide solid benefits to soldiers now more than ever, noting the increasing reliance on branches like the National Guard. “The Guard has been hot and heavy in the news lately, and actively utilized like never before,” he said. “We need to do what we can to take care of their families back home.”
The legislation has backing from the For Country Caucus, a bipartisan group of veterans in the House, including Waltz and Luria.
Luria noted that the Affordable Care Act requires all private insurers in the Health Insurance Marketplace to allow dependents to say on insurance plans through age 26, so there’s a serious inequity to denying the same access to the children of soldiers on Tricare. “We’re trying to fix an issue of parity,” she said.
It could be an expensive fix. The Congressional Budget Office estimates extending the Tricare access could cost $125 million per year. But there’s enormous intangible benefits, Luria and Waltz said.
Waltz believes the disparity between benefits in Tricare and that provided through private employers has created a recruitment and retention issue for the U.S. military. More important, he said making sure the government provides for the family of soldiers facing health emergencies is simply the right thing to do.
And what if Congress ever moves to change or repeal ObamaCare?
Waltz said one thing he doubts will change will be benefits for adult children. He said two areas where there has been consistent partisan agreement on any health care legislation are requiring coverage for pre-existing conditions and allowing dependents to stay on insurance until age 26. “Those two components are very popular across the aisle,” he said.