The Bush administration wants many military retirees to pay more for health care, a proposal that could force the Republican-run Congress to choose between savvy politics and budget discipline.
Annual health care costs for the military have doubled to nearly $38 billion in the past five years, nearly one dollar of every $12 the Pentagon spends. The price tag is projected to soar to $64 billion by 2015.
To help contain those costs, President Bush's proposal includes higher prescription drug co-payments for all beneficiaries of military health care except those on active duty, and increased annual enrollment fees for military retirees under age 65.
If lawmakers want to follow Bush's lead and control spiraling health care expenditures, they will have to vote to boost costs for some of the nation's military families in a year in which the entire House and one-third of the Senate is up for re-election.