President Donald Trump on Monday assured troops, retirees and family members that he would not be approving a $2.2 billion cut to the military’s health care budget.
In a tweet, the president responded to a Politico report posted Sunday, alleging that the Pentagon has tasked several organizations that oversee military health care to cut $2.2 billion over the five years.
Officials who spoke to Politico on the condition of anonymity argued that the “arbitrary” cut, which would offload some care of 9.5 million troops, retirees and family members onto the private sector, would have a detrimental effect on care.
The Defense Department is in the midst of myriad cost-savings reviews, with the health system key among them. At the same time, the military health system has already begun a major reorganization.
The DoD-run Defense Health Agency is taking over health care administration from the services, while MHS focuses more on combat medicine and other care associated with a military care.
Politico reported that “Esper rolled out the results of the first iteration of the defense-wide review in February, revealing $5.7 billion in cost savings that he said would be put toward preparing the Pentagon to better compete with Russia and China, including research into hypersonic weapons, artificial intelligence, missile defense and more.
But the proposed health cuts, in the second iteration of the defense-wide review, would degrade military hospitals to the point that they will no longer be able to sustain the current training pipeline for the military’s medical force, potentially necessitating something akin to a draft of civilian medical workers into the military, according to officials who spoke to Politico.
The Defense Department denied that Defense Secretary Mark Esper had “eyed” the proposal.
“As we stated yesterday in response to an inaccurate story, I have no directed nor approved any cuts to our military healthcare system in our future budgets,” Esper wrote in a tweet Sunday. “Furthermore, I will not allow any reductions that would harm access to quality medical care for our service members, their families, and our larger DoD community.”
Politico has defended the accuracy of its story.
Meghann Myers is the Pentagon bureau chief at Military Times. She covers operations, policy, personnel, leadership and other issues affecting service members.