Servicemembers expect health care costs to rise under Affordable Care Act

| January 6, 2014

Despite reports that the Affordable Care Act will have little impact on the health care benefits of servicemembers, many active-duty families are anticipating higher out-of-pocket expenses under the law, according to a new survey.

The First Command Financial Behaviors Index® reveals that seven out of ten middle-class military families (senior NCOs and commissioned officers in pay grades E-6 and above with household incomes of at least $50,000) who are aware of the Affordable Care Act expect to pay higher insurance premiums and deductibles. That’s about the same level of expectation reported by members of the general population in the same income range.

The findings are particularly significant because most military families are covered under the military’s health care system, which was excluded from the Affordable Care Act. Called Tricare, the system provides health benefits for military personnel, military retirees and their dependents. Tricare premiums and deductibles are generally considered to be lower than those charged by providers serving the general population, and Congress passed legislation defining the program as meeting the Act’s insurance coverage requirements.

Military families have good reason to be concerned about the future of their health care benefits. The Joint Chiefs of Staffs recently announced a proposal to curb the growth of military pay and benefits for housing, education and health. Six out of ten survey respondents indicated they were aware of the plan, and roughly three quarters of those people said they felt anxious about it.

Servicemembers are continuing to worry about the impact of military budget cuts and defense downsizing on their financial and professional lives. The Index reveals that 53 percent feel anxious about sequestration. When asked how sequester cuts have been impacting their family, roughly one in four respondents pointed to reduced personal expense benefits (housing, food and clothes), decreased discretionary income for non-essentials and diminished likelihood to be promoted.

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