CONGRESSWOMAN ELISE STEFANIK
On Tuesday, November 29, 2016, the House will consider H.R. 5458, Veterans TRICARE Choice Act, under suspension of the rules. H.R. 5458 was introduced by Rep. Chris Stewart (R-UT) on June 13, 2016, and was referred to the Committee on Ways and Means and, in addition, to the Committee on Armed Services. The Committee on Ways and Means ordered the bill reported, as amended, by voice vote on November 14, 2016.
H.R. 5458 would allow certain individuals who are automatically eligible for TRICARE, which is the health benefits program of the Department of Defense, to elect to be temporarily ineligible for that benefit. Making that election would allow those individuals to contribute to health savings accounts (HSAs), which are tax-advantaged accounts used to pay health expenses. Under current law, individuals eligible for TRICARE and covered by a high-deductible health insurance plan (HDHP) cannot make contributions to HSAs.
Individuals and families who enroll in qualified HDHPs are permitted to open HSAs. These accounts allow for pre-tax contributions, tax-free investment earnings, and tax-free distributions for future qualified medical expenses. According to a 2015 census conducted by America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), as of January 2015, 19.7 million people were covered by an HDHP/HSA, a 2.3 million-person increase from 2014 levels.
Since 1966, civilian healthcare for millions of service members’ dependents and retirees (and retirees’ dependents) has been provided through a program still known in law as the Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Uniformed Services, but more commonly known as TRICARE. An individual who is covered by an HDHP for a month and also covered under TRICARE for the month is not eligible to make HSA contributions for the month.
According to the Committee, “The current inability for certain non-active duty, TRICARE-eligible individuals to contribute to their HSAs limits their choices and ability to save in a tax-preferred way for their health care.” H.R. 5458 gives veterans the choice to voluntarily pause their TRICARE benefits in order to participate in an HSA program.
According to the bill sponsor, “As a former Air Force Officer, I know first hand about the sacrifices made by veterans and their families. When they leave the military and enter the private workforce, they shouldn’t be denied opportunities given to non-veteran employees. It’s important that we honor our veterans by ensuring that they have access to the best healthcare options for themselves and their families.”
 See House Report 114-809 at 3.
 See CRS Report, “Military Medical Care: Questions and Answers,” January 2, 2014.
 See House Report 114-809 at 3.
 See Rep. Stewart Press Release, “Rep. Stewart’s Veterans TRICARE Choice Act One Step Closer to Becoming Law,” June 15, 2016.
The Joint Committee on Taxation estimates that the legislation would reduce revenues by $97 million over the 2017-2026 period. That change in revenues includes a reduction of $41 million that would result from changes in off-budget revenues (from Social Security payroll taxes). CBO estimates that effects on direct spending and spending subject to appropriation would be insignificant in any year and in total over the 2017-2026 period.
For questions or further information please contact John Huston with the House Republican Policy Committee by email or at 6-5539.