One of the hidden costs in the Defense Budget that we identified in the Three Trillion Dollar War was the increasing cost of providing medical care to currently serving troops through TRICARE.

TRICARE is the military health care program serving active duty service members, National Guard and Reserve members, retirees, their families, and survivors worldwide.  We predicted that the Pentagon spending on health care would double from $19 billion in 2001 to about $40 billion in 2010.

BUT it is rising even faster than we projected.  The Pentagon now projects that TriCare will cost more than $50 billion in 2011, a 167% increase.  As a share of overall defense spending, health care costs have risen from 6% to 9% and will keep growing, according to Navy Lt. Cmdr. Kathleen Kesler, a Pentagon spokeswoman.

Key factors driving up military health care costs include:

Multiple combat tours have created more strains on joints, backs and legs, Pentagon statistics show. Medical visits for such problems rose from 2.8 million in 2005 to 3.7 million in 2009.

Mental health issues:  Behavioral-health counseling sessions for troops and family members rose 65% since 2004. The Pentagon paid for 7.3 million visits last year — treatment of 140,000 patients each week.

• Many new patients are children suffering anxiety or depression because of a parent away at war. Children had 42% more counseling sessions last year than in 2005, TRICARE numbers show.

• The number of TRICARE beneficiaries has grown by 370,000 in the past two years to 9.6 million troops, family members and military retirees.



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