I found this article in the Army Times.
Plan would let Guard, reserve keep private health care
By Rick Maze
The government could avoid health insurance headaches for the families of mobilized National Guard and reserve members by subsidizing their existing private insurance rather than converting them to Tricare coverage.
That proposal, being pushed by Reserve Officers Association and The Reserve Enlisted Association, is under discussion with the House and Senate Armed Services committees.
The option to keep existing insurance would not cost the government anything more because the Pentagon would pay no more than it would to cover a family under Tricare, said retired Navy Reserve Capt. Marshall Hanson, ROA legislative director.
The stipend, which would be paid to the employer, would total around $700 a month per family, which is the full cost of Tricare Reserve Select health coverage for reserve-component families.
Families are eligible for Tricare health benefits if the Guard or reserve member is mobilized for more than 30 days. Some privatesector companies allow families to keep employer-provided health coverage, but they are under no legal obligation to do so.
Changing health plans often requires a family to change doctors or follow different rules, which causes hardships that could be avoided if the family could keep its current coverage, Hanson said. Being dropped from private coverage “adversely affects family morale and military readiness,” he said, “and discourages some from re-enlisting.” “There are basically two reasons why people get out of the reserves — pressure from employers or pressure from the family,” Hanson said. “We could reduce the risk of the second one by making this change.” This is not an entirely new idea. In 2001, when National Guard and reserve units were called up in large numbers after the Sept. 11 attacks, there were complaints from families about being forced to switch health plans.
The idea of paying families to keep private health coverage was discussed, but such complaints ultimately were addressed by expanding Tricare providers into communities close to the families.
In 2005, when Congress created Tricare Reserve Select so Guard and reserve members had the option to buy military health insurance, the possibility of subsidizing private-sector health insurance was discussed again but did not go forward.
One reason, Hanson said, was a concern that the concept would create uneven health care benefits. Guard and reserve members with generous private-sector insurance plans might have better family coverage than full-time active-duty members, which raised concerns about fairness, Hanson said.