the Washington Post’s cost-saving idea: make health care more expensive for soldiers

Glenn Greenwald had a nice piece a few days ago about the Washington Post‘s lousy editorial point-of-view on military spending. Greenwald points out that the Post is always willing to be a cheerleader for new wars, but then has the nerve to suggest that we put the squeeze on health care for military families and veterans in order to save money. Quoting the Post‘s recent editorial on the subject of cuts in military spending, he writes:

“Defense savings beyond those already achieved by Mr. Gates are certainly possible and even needed — though by and large they lie in areas that Congress has been unwilling to touch. As we pointed out in a recent editorial, military health care now costs as much as the war in Iraq, in part because military families — including working-age retirees — pay one-tenth as much for their health plans as do civilian federal workers.”

Think about how rancid that is. The Post Editors and their corporate bosses are people who have used their influence as much as possible not only to start multiple wars but to vehemently argue against their end. Those wars have not, of course, been fought by Post Editors; that’s why they’ve so blithely cheered them on and demanded their continuation: because it isn’t their lives endangered by them. Their pro-war advocacy has instead imposed extreme burdens on a tiny portion of the population — members of the military and their families — and yet when it comes time to cut the military budget, they refuse to consider limiting the number of new wars they might want to start. Instead, they demand that the people they send off to fight their wars and their families be forced to pay more for their health care.

I find the Post editorial board’s facts questionable. Where does this “one-tenth as much for their health plans as do civilian federal workers” figure come from? The Post declines to provide a link or a footnote. Certainly in the case of Reservists it’s not true, unless civilian federal employees pay $2,000 a month for a family health care plan. In any event, the numbers are undoubtedly skewed by active duty families, for whom care is essentially free. (Active duty soldiers are cared for through a system that’s part HMO, part school nurse.) But so what? Food is also free. Housing is free. Uniforms are free. That’s the fucking Army, man. It’s one big communist love-in.

And as far as “working-age retirees,” who, the Post seems to be suggesting, are somehow getting over — when federal civilian employees (or Washington Post editors) are prepared to go through twenty to thirty years of grueling physical and mental punishment, including multiple year-long deployments overseas, the bodily danger of combat and the mental stresses of killing human beings for a living, in order to carry out this country’s foreign policy, then I’ll be happy to subsidize their health care in “working-age” retirement, too. Until then… shut up.

There are plenty of places we could save money on defense, including not starting new wars, eliminating redundant and unnecessary programs and weapons systems, bringing the out-of-control contracting system to heel, and firing the CIA. Health care for our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines should be the last place to start cutting.

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4 Responses to the Washington Post’s cost-saving idea: make health care more expensive for soldiers

  1. amy says:

    I’m afraid to even post this – but I challenge you to find one AD physician or (probably) nurse who doesn’t concur that the #1 thing that will save the military health care system is a co-pay. Even a tiny one. That could be waived for E5 and below.
    I can’t count the O5s who’ve left telephone consults so they can get my to write a “prescription” for free children’s tylenol from the pharmacy; the perfectly healthy E7s (AF) who haven’t run in 11 months and now, with their PT test pending, started running last week. And their knee hurts when they run, and they MUST HAVE an MRI. Or the Monday morning ED reports listing babies who were seen in the ED over the weekend for diaper rash. The list is infinite and universal and amazingly expensive. And it’s because people have no concept that they are wasting taxpayer money in the bajillions.
    If they had even a tiny, $3 copay for prescriptions, there would be some reality check and realization that none of this stuff is actually free.
    Also, if there was a $5 copay for visits, less people would come in and people who actually were sick might be able to get an appointment for once.
    Also, if people paid, even a little, they would value their care more.
    Also, if they paid, even a little, the medical system would value the patients more.
    And, we could still waive fees for E5 and below.

    • thehandsomecamel says:

      That’s interesting — I wonder if it would work. I can’t think of a time when a co-pay slowed me down, but a deductible sometimes does. Although then sometimes I get into a very determined mindset where I’ve GOT TO GET THROUGH MY DEDUCTIBLE TO THE FREE HEALTH CARE. So then I end up going in for every little thing.

      • Elana says:

        But you are a person I have to yell at to get to go see a doctor at all. So maybe you are not the healthcare-absorbing force Amy is talking about, exactly…?

        There was a bit on THIS AMERICAN LIFE about the history of drug co-pays. Apparently science says that they actually do work to let patients know that this stuff isn’t free.

  2. amy says:

    also, I didn’t read the Post article. So if it’s egregious, sorry!

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