A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Exaggerating Help for Troops

Clinton falsely claims guardsmen and reservists didn't have health insurance before she went to work.


Summary

In a recent ad, Clinton claims members of the National Guard and military Reserve didn’t have health insurance until she and a GOP colleague took action. We find the ad misleading. In fact, active-duty Guard and Reserve troops already were covered by federal insurance, and four out of five non-active-duty guardsmen and reservists already were covered by their civilian employers or other sources. Clinton did help expand and enhance health care coverage for reservists but can’t claim credit for creating coverage where none existed, as this ad implies.

Analysis

The ad, called “Guard,” began airing statewide in New Hampshire on Dec. 17. It places Hillary Clinton alongside glowing images of men and women in uniform and lays her voice over soaring, patriotic strains. But, beneath all of the glitz, there’s a misleading claim.

Hillary Clinton For President Ad: “Guard”

Clinton: You would think that after all the sacrifices and service of the National Guard and Reserve protecting our country, they would have had health insurance. But they didn’t.

So I reached across the aisle and worked for three years with Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican, to change that. Now every member of the Guard and Reserve has access to the health coverage they need.

I’ve learned if you want to get things done, you have to know when to stand your ground and when to find common ground. I’m Hillary Clinton and I approve this message.

Guarding the Guard

Clinton says, “You would think that … National Guard and Reserve … would have had health insurance. But they didn’t.”

That’s not exactly true. First of all, long before Clinton became a senator, members of the National Guard and Reserve were covered  by federal health insurance while on active duty and for a period thereafter. So were their dependents. As for those not on active duty, four out of five were covered by health insurance through their civilian employers, their spouse or some other source, according to a 2000 survey by the Department of Defense.

It is certainly true that Clinton was among those pushing to expand and improve federal coverage for reservists while they’re not on active duty. But it’s just wrong to say the National Guard and Reserve didn’t have health insurance, because the large majority did.

Clinton can claim credit for joining a number of House and Senate members in working on 2003 legislation that expanded reservists’ temporary military health care coverage from 60 days to 180 days after active service. That coverage – called the Transitional Assistance Management Program (TAMP) – provides reservists with military health care (or TRICARE) immediately after they are taken off of active duty status.

It’s also true, as Clinton states in the ad, that she worked with Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and with other senators. And as a result, in 2005, Congress mandated a new form of military health care called TRICARE Reserve Select (TRS) which gives those in the Selected Reserve – a component of the Ready Reserve – an opportunity to purchase TRICARE health coverage when not on active duty.

Clinton would have been correct to say “some didn’t” have health insurance. She even would be justified in saying that, before her efforts, guardsmen and reservists “didn’t have adequate health insurance.” That’s an opinion with which many would agree. But by falsely claiming that “they didn’t” have health insurance, she gives herself more credit than the facts support.

 

Sources

“U.S. Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Hillary Clinton (D-NY) Hold A News Conference On TRICARE.” Political Transcript Wire, 26 Apr. 2005.

Clinton-Backed Amendment to Provide Health Care for Reservists and National Guard Approved by Congress. 3 Nov. 2003. Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton: Statements & Releases, 19 Dec. 2007.

TRICARE Reserve Select: A Premium-Based TRICARE Health Plan. TRICARE Management Activity, 19 Dec. 2007.

Government Accountability Office. Defense Health Care: Issues and Challenges Confronting Military Medicine. Washington: GPO, 1995.

TRICARE: Choices for the National Guard and Reserve. TRICARE Management Activity, 19 Dec. 2007.

Government Accountability Office. Military Health: Increased TRICARE Eligibility for Reservists Presents Educational Challenges. Washington: GPO, 2007.

History of TRICARE. 4 Jan. 2007. TRICARE Management Activity, 19 Dec. 2007.

TRICARE Management Activity. TRICARE Reserve Select Handbook. Washington: GPO, 2007.

“Washington: TRICARE Reserve Select will be costly, complex.” The Sun Herald, 29 Jan. 2005: A6.

Government Accountability Office. Military Personnel: DOD Needs More Data to Address Financial and Health Care Issues Affecting Reservists. Washington: GPO, 2007.