Defense Secretary Austin Calls Bipartisan Effort by Reps. Kim and Kelly to Expand Military Healthcare one of the “Utmost Importance”

June 24, 2021
Press Release

Defense Secretary Austin Calls Bipartisan Effort by Reps. Kim and Kelly to
Expand Military Healthcare one of the “Utmost Importance” 

WASHINGTON, DC – This week, at a hearing of the House Armed Services Committee, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin called efforts to expand healthcare to members of the National Guard and Reserve an issue of the “utmost importance”. The Secretary’s comments highlight the urgency of the Healthcare for our Troops Act, a bipartisan bill introduced by Congressman Andy Kim (NJ-03) and Congressman Trent Kelly (MS-01) that would make no-fee healthcare available to the over 800,000 Americans serving our nation in the Reserve and National Guard.

Video of the Secretary’s comments can be found by clicking here.

The bill, H.R. 3512, addresses what the head of the National Guard Bureau, Army General Daniel Hokanson, called “one of my most pressing concerns”, and has been endorsed and supported by several military and service member support organizations.

Secretary Austin, in response to a question by Congressman Kelly, went on to say that he would, “welcome any initiatives that enables us to provide better healthcare, more efficient healthcare, to all the components of our service.”

Specifically, if enacted, the Healthcare for our Troops Act would:

Ensure every service member has healthcare

  • Provide premium-free/zero cost sharing medical and dental coverage for Selected Reserve members eligible for TRICARE Reserve Select (TRS)
  • Address financial barriers to seeking mental health care

Improve readiness

  • Prepare service members for no-notice deployments
  • Provide comprehensive treatment for illnesses and injuries which affect medical readiness, regardless of duty status
  • Require a study on eliminating annual physicals during drill and replacing them with forms to be completed by civilian providers to assess medical readiness--giving commanders back valuable training days and saving over $162 Million annually in contracted medical assessments

Provide incentives for service and hiring service members

  • Provide an employer incentive to hiring Guard and Reserve members by lessening demand for employer-sponsored healthcare plans.
  • Eliminate the statutory language that excludes those eligible for Federal Employees Health Benefits Program from TRICARE Reserve Select eligibility
  • Fix the parity gap for Reserve Component retirees receiving early retirement pay due to deployment credits making them eligible for TRICARE upon receipt of retirement pay