Francine Kiefer
The Christian Science Monitor
October 1, 2010

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Like business and government in America, the US military is also burdened with the soaring cost of health care. “It’s just not sustainable,” said Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, at a Monitor breakfast with reporters today.

He ticked off the rocketing rise in the Pentagon’s health spending: about $19 billion in 2000-2001, over $50 billion now, an estimated $64 billion in four or five years. One of his answers to the challenge is higher co-payments that apply to military retirees and their families (active-duty personnel don’t pay health fees). The co-pays haven’t been raised since 1995.

Admiral Mullen, prepare for a tough fight.

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While Americans may be in a heightened state of alert about national deficits and debt, Congress has consistently resisted attempts to raise out-of-pocket health costs for the military. Yet “everybody knows that we’re being eaten alive by health care,” said Robert Gates, the secretary of defense, last month. He plans to include higher premiums in next year’s proposed defense budget. Premiums, like co-pays, have not been touched for 15 years.

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