Elderly beneficiaries of military health care suffered a stinging defeat in the final days of the 104th Congress when a key lawmaker backed away from a deal to test Medicare subvention. The action so frustrated military health officials that they decided by year’s end to launch a subvention demonstration of their own, without benefit of legislation.
Subvention refers to Medicare reimbursing the military for the cost of treating Medicare-eligible beneficiaries, those age 65 and older, in service clinics and hospitals. Without the infusion of cash. Defense officials warn, in-service care of the elderly virtually will disappear by 2001. Many military hospitals and clinics already deny them routine care. Those turned away are expected to use Medicare or private health insurance. Subvention not only would reverse the exodus from military facilities, say proponents, but also would save Medicare dollars by providing care more cheaply than Medicare providers in the private sector.