Friday, December 4, 2015

A Tricare Fix?

From the Stars and Stripes:
"After 'death spiral’ warning, Tricare reform begins on Capitol Hill"
Tricare could be fixed rather than scrapped if the first House hearing Thursday on reforming the military health care system is any indication. Troop advocacy groups and lawmakers who kicked off the reform effort said they were interested in major reforms in the system of military and private providers that cares for 9.5 million beneficiaries. But they veered away from recommendations earlier this year that Tricare be replaced with an array of private provider plans similar to what federal civilians are offered. “We think it is important to preserve what is working and fix what is not working,” said retired Vice Admiral Norb Ryan, the president and CEO of the Military Officers Association of America, the largest group of its kind in the country. A congressionally appointed review panel said last winter that Tricare is in a “death spiral” and Congress is now rolling up its sleeves to solve the problems after spending most of the legislative year on an historic overhaul of the military’s 20-year pension system. The hearings on Tricare reform are expected to stretch into 2016. For beneficiaries, choice and access has been decreasing for two decades while costs are rising, the Military Retirement and Compensation Modernization Commission found in its landmark review released in January. Tricare is now far behind other networks in its number of providers and ability to incorporate new types of medical care, according to the review. The commission’s surveys of the military community found widespread difficulties in getting care and a lack of continuity in health care. The commission recommended a new health insurance system similar to the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program with up to 250 alternative health care plans, including a minimum of 11 plans for rural areas and dozens for metropolitan areas. Heck said he had not settled on any plans to fix Tricare. But he did question advocacy groups about a blended system that would direct more beneficiaries to base hospitals, rely more on clinics in places with smaller military populations, and offer guard and reserve troops insurance plans like ones offered to federal workers. Congress and the White House passed an overhaul of military retirements before Thanksgiving that turned the 20-year pensions into a blended system that provides all members with 401(k)-style contributions in Thrift Savings Plan accounts. The new retirement options begin in 2018. The National Military Family Association told House lawmakers that it also supports major reforms because its members are frustrated by lack of access to health care as well as a patchwork of military rules that change between services and bases and often create barriers for families trying to get treatment.
^ Tricare as it is right now is a joke and a poor one at that. If they can fix it and make it great than they should try otherwise they should scrap it and start over. Soldiers, veterans and their families have enough to deal with without also having to deal with the VA and Tricare. ^

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