McHugh Opening Statement for Posture Hearing on the Fiscal Year 2008 Budget and Challenges for the Military Health Care System

Feb 12, 2007
Press Release

Contact: Josh Holly; 202.226.3988 

Washington, D.C. –Rep. John McHugh (R-NY), ranking Republican on the Military Personnel Subcommittee, today released the following statement for the Military Personnel Subcommittee’s hearing on the Fiscal Year 2008 military health care budget and the challenges facing the Military Health Care System:
“Thank you Dr. Snyder.  Before I begin I’d like to thank you for holding this hearing.  Although we routinely have an annual hearing on the Defense Health Program (DHP), there is nothing routine about the military health system and the extraordinary care it provides to our service members and their families.
“The subcommittee remains committed to ensuring that the remarkable men and women who are entrusted with the lives of our troops have the resources to continue their work for future generations of our most deserving military beneficiaries.  I would like to express my deep appreciation to Dr. Winkenwerder for his leadership in delivering the highest quality healthcare during these most challenging times. 

“One of the most severe challenges is that, for the second year in a row, the budget for the Defense Health Program has been significantly reduced with the hope of Congressional support for changes to the benefit in the form of increased fees for TRICARE.  The fiscal year 2008 budget reduction is $2.1 billion.

“The overwhelming response from Congress last year to the Department’s plan to raise fees should have sent a very clear message.  Yet DOD continues to dig this budget hole. 

“Last year, the John Warner National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2007 restored $486 million to the DHP to cover the programmed decrease.  It seems to me that overly optimistic assumptions and over-reliance on fee increases have once again put this subcommittee in the position of having to determine how much will have to be restored to the Defense Health Program.  I am concerned about how many more years the DOD plans to reduce the budget for the military health system.

“The budget also includes an increase of $157 million dollars in civilian pay to fund an additional 2,712 positions planned for conversion from military to civilian positions in fiscal year 2008.  In light of the 5,507 military positions that have already been converted since 2005, I can’t help but wonder what effect this is having on the ability of the military health system to carry out its mission.  We have not seen the certifications required by legislation Congress passed in 2005 and 2006.  Those certifications are required to include an assessment of the effect of the conversions on cost, quality and access to care.  Therefore, it is difficult to determine whether the conversions included in this budget will have a negative effect on our military beneficiaries.”