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Joint Endeavor Validates TRICARE's Readiness Role, Joseph

By Douglas J. Gillert
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 22, 1996 – Sending 20,000 U.S. service members -- including hundreds of medics -- to Bosnia last year could have completely disrupted health care services in Western Europe. That didn't happen, DoD's top doctor said.

Instead -- and due to TRICARE initiatives established a year earlier -- service members and their families left behind suffered no break in health care, said Dr. Stephen Joseph, assistant secretary of defense for health affairs.

Claims to a skeptical Congress that TRICARE, DoD's peacetime health care program, could also enhance military readiness, crystallized during Operation Joint Endeavor, Joseph told people attending the 1996 TRICARE Lead Agent Conference in Vienna, Va., July 16. As American troops deployed to Eastern Europe, a majority of DoD medics stationed in Europe accompanied them.

"That deployment involved more military medical personnel than could be absorbed by a much-reduced medical capability in Europe," Joseph said. "Because of TRICARE procedures established in Europe, ... families received help in selecting local national [health care] providers and translators to assist in gaining the care they needed. Additionally, the reserve components backfilled many of our medical facilities in an extremely smooth transition."

Patient complaints reveal how effective any program is, Joseph said. For Joint Endeavor, he said, "we've not received anywhere near the volume [of complaints] we would normally expect following a deployment."

European TRICARE helped DoD develop and employ a flexible health care program to accomplish readiness and patient care responsibilities simultaneously, Joseph said. Lessons learned in Europe have been applied to establishing TRICARE in the Pacific Theater as well, he said.

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