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New Choices Improve Health Care Access

By Douglas J. Gillert
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 21, 1998 – Two new TRICARE options give people more choices and improved access to military health care.

Retirees and other nonactive-duty beneficiaries eligible for TRICARE Prime enrollment -- surviving spouses, for example -- can enroll family members living separately in another region. They pay the same annual fee as for a single-region enrollment and may split the fee between the two regional contractors.

Active duty families already have the split enrollment option, with no enrollment fees.

For more information about how to split TRICARE Prime enrollment, contact the nearest TRICARE service center or call your regional TRICARE contractor. TRICARE telephone numbers, by region, also are listed at the Military Health System Web site at http://hawww.ha.osd.mil.

The Uniformed Services Family Health Plan is another option that allows TRICARE Prime enrollees in four general areas to switch to healthcare programs offered by seven medical centers and hospitals. The transfer option can be exercised once each enrollment year and does not require a change of residence.

"This is important news for people living in the regions served by [family plan networks]," said Eric Feldmann of the Bayley Seton Hospital in New York, one of the plan participants. The option allows TRICARE beneficiaries to transfer if a plan program meets their health care needs better, he said.

People already enrolled in one of the seven programs also can transfer to a TRICARE Prime contractor or military treatment facility if they desire. Plan administrators said the portability option could be particularly useful to retired beneficiaries who travel south to avoid northern winters.

"This option allows two 'out-of-contract' enrollment transfers in each enrollment year (if one move is back to the first contract area)," said Michelle Austin of the Martin's Point Health Care System in Portland, Maine. "[So,] enrollees can travel just about wherever they'd like without worrying about continuity of care."

The service areas of four Uniformed Services Family Health Plan hospitals and medical centers cover the North Atlantic Coast including all of New Jersey, Maine, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island; metropolitan New York City; central and western Maryland; and southeast New Hampshire. One each serve northern Ohio, western Washington; and the Gulf Coast areas of eastern Texas and western Louisiana.

For more information, call the Uniformed Services Family Health Plan toll-free at (888) 258-7347 or visit its Web site at http://www.usfhp.com.

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