People are generally familiar with the point that rapidly growing health care costs portend budgetary doom for Medicare, but Spencer Ackerman observes that this is also true of the military:
Military health care costs rose an astonishing 167 percent in the last decade, going from about $19 billion in 2001 to a nearly $51 billion this year. That’s twice as fast an increase as the civilian healthcare system, largely because civilians (who aren’t military family members) don’t deal with the consequences of war. Congress doesn’t want to raise premiums for TRICARE, the military health-care program, for the very understandable reason that service personnel and their families already have so much to deal with. But until something is done — and here Lawrence Korb of the Center for American Progress, a Reagan-era Pentagon personnel and readiness official, makes some policy suggestions — healthcare costs will continue their acute hemorrhage.
There’s also a demographic momentum aspect to this. When faced with a soldier suffering long-term health problems as a result of military action we obviously and appropriately don’t immediately start thinking about the budgetary implications. Still the reality is that the health care costs associated with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will endure and even increase in ten, twenty, thirty years as the pool of veterans ages.