ABOARD A C-40 MILITARY TRANSPORT JET—Halfway through his tenure in charge of the National Guard, Army Gen. Daniel Hokanson’s quest to get all Guardsmen year-round health insurance has stalled.
Hokanson, who took over as National Guard chief in 2020, has repeatedly raised the prospect of insuring the approximately 60,000 airmen and soldiers who rely on TRICARE while activated, but aren’t otherwise covered by an employer, Medicaid or a private plan sold on the Affordable Care Act exchanges.
But the prospective cost of permanently adding those part-time Guardsmen to the TRICARE rolls like their full-time counterparts, plus an untold number of dependents, remains elusive, he told Military Times in an exclusive interview during a trip to Arkansas on Monday.
Providing basic TRICARE insurance to those service members alone could cost the federal government upward of $700 million each year, he said. He cautioned that the figure is about a year old and doesn’t account for the recent spike in inflation.
The Guard, which makes up one-fifth of the Defense Department, argues it doesn’t have much wiggle room in its budget for higher insurance costs. But Hokanson said the benefits are worth figuring out a way to foot the bill, either through military appropriations or another avenue.
“What I want to do is give the families and the service members the stability and the belief that, ‘Hey, if I get injured or anything, I’m going to be healthy,’” Hokanson said. “The last thing we want is to get mobilized and then somebody says, ‘Hey, I’ve had this injury, but I haven’t had health insurance to get it addressed.’”
In that case, he said, everyone loses.
It’s not a hypothetical