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Eight Sites to Enroll Over-65 Retirees in Health Plan

By Douglas J. Gillert
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 22, 1999 – The Defense Department will enroll up to 66,000 military retirees over age 65 in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program at eight locations nationwide.

Sites selected for the three-year test program are Dover Air Force Base, Del.; Commonwealth of Puerto Rico; Fort Knox, Ky.; Greensboro, Winston-Salem and High Point, N.C.; Dallas; Humboldt County area, Calif.; Naval Hospital, Camp Pendleton, Calif.; and New Orleans.

The plan will allow participants to enroll during federal civilian employees' fall 1999 health benefits open season. Open seasons, normally about 30 days long, occur in November and December. Those eligible to enroll will include over-65 retirees who are Medicare eligible and their dependents, unremarried former spouses of military members, and dependents of deceased members or former members. Medicare eligibility is not required for retirees' dependents in the last two groups. Coverage will begin in January 2000 and end in December 2002.

Dr. Sue Bailey, assistant secretary of defense for health affairs, announced the site selection at the Pentagon Jan. 14.

"The Military Health System stands firm in our commitment to providing quality health care to all our beneficiaries," she said. "This demonstration project, along with several other test programs, will provide the department with valuable information about the cost and feasibility of several alternative approaches to providing increased health care access for our over-65 population."

Other projects either under way or planned include TRICARE Senior Prime, which has enrolled at least 21,000 over-65 beneficiaries at six locations, expanded pharmacy services, and a TRICARE supplemental benefit for Medicare-eligible beneficiaries.

Participants must enroll in a Federal Employees Health Benefits Program plan and pay premiums to receive benefits. Premiums will be based on a separate risk pool for Military Health System beneficiaries and be partially offset by government contributions. During the test, enrollees can't use military hospitals or clinics for any health care services.

The 1999 Defense Authorization directed DoD and the Office of Personnel Management to develop the demonstration project. The selected sites follow congressionally mandated requirements, with no more than one site allowed in each TRICARE region. The OPM and DoD will jointly evaluate the program and submit reports to Congress in May 2001 and December 2002.

More details of this program are available on the Military Health System web site at http://www.tricare.osd.mil.

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