Healthcare as a Flesh-Eating Virus

Acknowledging Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ recent remark that healthcare costs are “eating the Defense Department alive,” Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz said Tuesday it’s probable that servicemembers will have to contribute more toward their own healthcare expenses. “If we’re not careful . . . these unbounded costs can force out military content elsewhere in the Department of Defense portfolio,” said Schwartz in response to a question after his speech at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. He continued, “That is something we will have to address. We’ll do it compassionately [and] rationally, but it needs to be addressed.” Gates made the “eating alive” comment in a May 8 speech at the Eisenhower Presidential Library in Abilene, Kan., that introduced the Pentagon’s efficiency initiative. Gates noted that healthcare costs have shot up from $19 billion a decade ago to roughly $50 billion annually today.