Obama signs law to protect Tricare

By Rick Maze - Staff writer Military Times

Posted : Monday Apr 26, 2010 17:05:25 EDT

The Tricare Affirmation Act, aimed at protecting people in the military health care program from being penalized for not having private insurance, was signed into law Monday by President Obama.

The new law provides a specific exemption for Tricare beneficiaries and for nonappropriated-fund civilian employees of the Defense Department from a requirement of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that will require people without minimal health cover to either buy private insurance or face a $750 penalty.

Tricare health insurance is specifically defined by the law signed Monday as minimal essential coverage, which provides an exemption from the penalty.

Rep. Ike Skelton, D-Mo., the House Armed Services Committee chairman who opposed the national health care reform law but was a key sponsor of the Tricare Affirmation Act, said he hopes this resolves questions by active-duty family members, retirees and their families about how national health reform might affect them.

Signing the new law “reinforces that military health care coverage will not be adversely affected by the health care reform law,” Skelton said.

Skelton’s committee will consider legislation in May that would extend to Tricare beneficiaries one of the provisions of the new health reform law that allows unmarried children to remain covered by a parent’s insurance until age 26. That legislation is expected to be included in the 2011 defense authorization bill.