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WWW.Huh?: TRICARE Web Site Good First Stop for Beneficiaries

By Staff Sgt. Kathleen T. Rhem, USA
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 27, 2000 – TRICARE officials want people to know they have an Internet home page that can be a great first stop for beneficiaries to get information on the program.

The home page address is www.tricare.osd.mil. Experts have worked hard to create a friendly, easy to use design, said Air Force Col. Frank Cumberland, TRICARE Management Agency director of communications and customer service. He said the site designers benchmark their work against some of industry's best Web destinations.

The front page is full of the most recent articles about TRICARE from several different news sources on the Internet. A handy A-to-Z drop-down menu at the top of the front page will take visitors to any area of the site they want without a lot of annoying searching from link to link.

Cumberland said claims processing is the most asked about issue in TRICARE, so information about claims enjoys a prominent spot on the home page. By clicking on the "CLAIMS Information" button in the upper right edge of the home page, customers will find step-by-step instructions for filing a claim, downloadable forms and answers to frequently asked questions. Other links from this page take people to a list of local claims offices and information on the new Debt Collection Assistance Officer program.

The button "TRICARE Beneficiaries: Understanding Your TRICARE Benefits" on the upper left side of the home page takes Web surfers to the most-hit of the site's 26,000 pages: a TRICARE primer -- a page of links that lead to extensive information on every aspect of the program from dental benefits to the Senior Prime demonstration.

From the page, visitors can find the toll-free number for their service region, send a change of address to the Defense Eligibility and Enrollment Reporting System, download enrollment forms, and find a nearby authorized healthcare provider, among other things.

"One of the real purposes of our site is to serve as a master link to the rest of TRICARE," Cumberland said. "With one visit to our site, people can reach virtually any of our lead agents, our hospitals and our managed care contractors, and obtain 100 percent of the toll-free numbers available."

Also within this section is the "Beneficiary Forum," where visitors can ask questions about TRICARE and join in discussions with other beneficiaries. A TRICARE staff member usually answers questions the same day they are posted to the site.

Two other key features of the site are the TRICARE Stakeholders Report and new monthly columns by agency director Dr. H. James T. Sears. The two columns are "Plain Talk About TRICARE," for the beneficiary audience, and "TRICARE Grand Rounds," for the healthcare provider and administrator audience.

"The purpose of having these right up front is to let beneficiaries worldwide know that we're working on problems with this program, but that we really believe we've got a program that is posting some very, very good results," Cumberland said. "We want to pass the word that TRICARE is a good healthcare benefit and that the TRICARE program has matured and improved over time."

One area officials are working to improve in the near-term is information for healthcare providers. "We want to get stronger on information for our own providers, our own clinicians, including medical information resources for them," he said.

Farther out, officials hope TRICARE beneficiaries will be able to make appointments and refill prescriptions online.

NOTE: Joint Ethics Regulation (DoD 550.7-R, section 2-301) spells out legal and illegal use of federal communications resources while on the job. In general, the restrictions that guide office telephone use also govern Internet use. See your supervisor or local computer policy experts for details.

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