|What the Recruiter Never Told You|
|Part 11: Medical Care|
If the recruiter promises you free health care for life, turn around and run (or find another recruiter).
Seriously, up until the mid 1980s, recruiters were promising just that. It wasn't their fault -- up until that time there was free health care for life. Any military retiree, and their immediate families, could get care (space available) at any military medical facility. That law hasn't really changed. What has changed is the "space availability" of health care.
As a result of down-sizing, 35 percent of the military hospitals that existed in the United States in 1987 are closed today. Several dozen others have cut services. The number of doctors, nurses and medical technicians in military service has declined along with the number of other service members.
Despite this, the total number of people seeking health care through the military’s health care system has dropped only slightly.
Slowly, but steadily, military retirees, their families, and many active duty family members, were forced to seek medical care off-base, with only partial reimbursement from a program called CHAMPUS (Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Uniformed Services). Those who could still receive care through the military medical facilities found that even urgent care appointments were taking weeks -- if not months -- to obtain.
Let me say right from the start: The current military health care system (TriCare) is not bad when compared to most civilian health care plans. We have a health care cost crisis in this country, and TriCare is certainly one of the least expensive plans available anywhere. However, many military veterans and retirees are understandably upset with the provisions of TriCare for two primary reasons:
While military retired members must pay for a portion of their health care costs, for most active duty members, and their family, Tricare is free. For more details about the military health care system, see our feature article, Military Medical Care, Explained.