The bill – headed by Sens. J.D. Vance (R-Ohio) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass) – would allow retired reserve personnel to sign up for some Tricare plans when they begin receiving retirement pay, instead of having to wait until they reach the usual retirement age of 60.
“Our nation's retired Guardsmen and reservists should have access to all the healthcare options offered by the Tricare system,” Vance said in a statement. “With this legislation, we have an opportunity to guarantee that these patriotic men and women receive the high-quality, affordable care they deserve. It’s the least we can do in recognition of their service to our country.”
Currently, members of reserve components called up to active duty may retire with retirement pay early, based on how long they served on active duty – three months earlier for every 90 days served.
Early-retiring guardsmen and reservists are eligible for the Tricare Retired Reserve health care plan, which is more expensive than other coverage – monthly premiums are $549.35 per person. Meanwhile, Tricare's Prime and Select plans are open only to retirees ages 60 and older – Select's annual fee is $171.96 for an individual retiree enlisted before 2018.
The proposed bill would allow reserve retirees younger than 60 to sign up for Tricare's cheaper plans.
Guardsmen and reservists have been increasingly relied on for missions at home and abroad, according to bill proponents.
"Reserve component members who earned early retirement pay through deployment credits should receive their full retirement package, including health care coverage," retired Lt. Gen. Brian Kelly, president and CEO of the Military Officers Association of America, said in a statement provided by Vance's office. "National Guard and Reserve early retirees have made many sacrifices, and their retirement should align with other uniformed retirees who are also eligible for Tricare."