May 27, 2018
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Military health care reform needed — no lie!

It is hard to take seriously a congressman who yelled “You lie!” at the president. Yet, media outlets across the country trumpeted Republican Rep. Joe Wilson’s criticism of the Pentagon’s appointment of former Maine Gov. John Baldacci to a post to review the military health care system.

South Carolina Rep. Wilson, in case you’ve forgotten, is the one who disrupted President Barack Obama’s State of the Union last year with his two-word outburst. Subsequent reviews showed that the president hadn’t lied when he said the recently passed health care reform law would not provide free health care coverage to undocumented immigrants.

Earlier this month, it was announced that former Gov. Baldacci, a Democrat, has been appointed to a post to help with health care reform within the military. He will be evaluating a number of programs within the Personnel and Readiness office, including prevention and wellness, the health services delivery system, and the Tricare managed care program for military members and their families.

Maj. Gen. Bill Libby, commissioner of the Department of Defense, Veterans and Emergency Management and the adjutant general of the Maine National Guard, said Mr. Baldacci is well-suited to his new position because as a governor and as a member of Congress, Libby said, Baldacci has grappled with the responsibility of both sending troops to war and caring for them when they return.

“I don’t think anyone who has ever been in uniform would argue that military medical care doesn’t need significant reform,” Gen. Libby said.

On Tuesday, the House Armed Services Committee Subcommittee on Military Personnel held a hearing on the military’s proposal to raise rates for some Tricare recipients.

As Stars and Stripes noted, the subcommittee’s chairman — Joe Wilson — had said he would oppose the proposed increase.

A Defense Department spokeswoman, Cynthia Smith, explained that the three biggest factors contributing to health cost growth in the last decade have been new benefits for elderly retirees, increase Tricare usage and general health care price increases.

In case Rep. Wilson doesn’t understand, part of Mr. Baldacci’s job is to do a complete review of the system to look for ways to lower costs and improve quality.

It is hypocritical for Rep. Wilson to tell the military not to raise the cost of one of its health plans and at the same time complain that they’re looking for efficiencies and cost savings in the system.

At its core, Rep. Wilson’s objections are about partisan posturing and opposing any health care reform work by Democrats.

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