Rare moment of agreement among all Arizona congressmen

| April 4 2012
Christopher Cook

Reps. Ben Quayle, Jeff Flake, David Schweikert, Ed Pastor, Trent Franks, Raul Grijalva, and Paul Gosar all agree? Not very often.

But a decision by the Department of Defense to select United Health Group over a Phoenix company for a military health-care contract has brought them together.

“As members of Congress, we support a full and open competition that ensures the highest possible care at the best possible price,” the letter stated. “It is our duty to spend taxpayer dollars wisely, and the best way to accomplish that is through competition.”

Among the questions the congressmen are asking is, simply, why now?

Phoenix-based TriWest Healthcare Alliance has held the contract for 16 years and won an extension in 2009. The contract was rebid after UnitedHealth challenged the most recent award to TriWest, resulting in Tricare’s selection of UnitedHealth for six years beginning April 1, 2013.

And why UnitedHealth?

Last week, TriWest challenged the contract through a protest filed with the Government Accountability Office. TriWest contends that UnitedHealth presented a higher bid than TriWest and that the insurance company has a history of performance and regulatory issues that should have been carefully vetted.

The Pentagon has agreed to pay a health care provider about $200 million more than a competing contractor’s bid for military retirees’ Tricare services at the same time as it is asking retirees to pay large increases for their care.

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Rep. Howard P. “Buck” McKeon has been an outspoken critic of a Pentagon plan to sharply increase fees for Tricare, calling the plan another “hit” on the military by the Obama administration, which is cutting $487 billion in defense spending over 10 years and may cut an additional $600 billion under congressional budget-cutting legislation.

 Why ask retirees to pay more? Unsurprisingly, there is an ulterior motive.

Republican congressional aides noted that Pentagon officials said during briefings last month on the health care cuts that one objective of the increases was to move military retirees from Tricare to Obamacare, the new nationalized healthcare system.

 Charge people more. Penalize them. Drive insurance companies out of business. All to force them onto government health care, where they have less freedom and less choice, and where the care will be worse . . . but where they’ll be stuck.
All for their own good.