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IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Release No: 133-99
March 31, 1999

MILITARY HEALTH SYSTEM ON TRACK FOR Y2K COMPLIANCE - Progress Reflective of Department-wide Attention to Y2K Repairs

Dr. Sue Bailey, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs, today announced a significant milestone for Year 2000 compliance of the Military Health System (MHS).

All MHS "mission critical" health systems met the December 1998 deadline of the Department of Defense for Y2K repair and have been certified for compliance. In addition, 85 percent of the 75 "non-mission critical" systems, and 98 percent of biomedical equipment, have been deemed Y2K compliant. Mission critical systems are those necessary for uninterrupted delivery of medical care. Non-mission critical systems include all other devices supporting effective healthcare delivery and efficient operation of medical facilities.

Goals for March 1999 included achieving Y2K compliance for all remaining computers systems, biomedical equipment and facility systems, such as air conditioning, elevators and security systems, in military treatment facilities. Any device not meeting today's March 31 deadline for government-wide compliance will be fully tracked. Non-compliance is primarily caused by manufacturer delays in providing necessary upgrades.

Items that cannot achieve compliance will be removed from service.

The achievements of the Military Health System are reflective of the overall attention to Y2K compliance of the Department of Defense. As of March 31, 1999, 96 percent of DoD's 2,038 mission critical systems have been fixed with fielding in progress. Of those 2,038 systems, 88 percent are both fixed and fielded to all locations where the DoD system might be deployed. Full compliance for mission critical systems is expected by the end of this summer.

In commenting on the achievements of health compliance, Bailey stressed the goal of DoD leadership: to carry out national security responsibilities irrespective of the date. "We will make sure that we maintain medical readiness and ensure uninterrupted world-class health care for our beneficiaries on and after January 1, 2000," stated Bailey. "Achieving Y2K compliance is the highest priority in the MHS information technology program."

The next step for the Military Health System's Y2K program is to validate the continuity of critical functions through end-to-end testing of the program's computer systems. This process requires identifying and testing Y2K compliant systems that support critical functions, and ensuring accurate and uninterrupted data exchanges between them. TRICARE, the health benefits program for all uniformed services, relies on partnerships with the civilian health industry, as well as other DoD systems, to meet the health needs of military beneficiaries.

According to Bailey, "We operate a worldwide healthcare delivery system and must be vigilant in our efforts to ensure Y2K compliance. We must be certain that all elements of the MHS continue to function properly. Our people have done an incredible job in meeting the milestones established for Y2K compliance."

The Military Health System will be testing interfaces with TRICARE managed care support contractors, pharmaceutical supply vendors and the Defense Eligibility Enrollment Reporting System (DEERS) to ensure their Y2K compliance. The testing will be completed by Summer 1999.

According to the results of a December 1998 DoD Inspector General audit, the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs staff "aggressively searched to identify Year 2000 problems and solutions, and initiated many actions to correct the issues." The report commended the staff's "proactive and aggressive approach to resolving Year 2000 issues."

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