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Users Happy with TRICARE Latest Survey Reveals

By Douglas J. Gillert
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 27, 1997 – Nearly 8,000 enrollees in TRICARE Prime say they are satisfied with DoD's managed health care program.

A telephone survey conducted in late 1996 rated enrollees' understanding of TRICARE and their satisfaction with six aspects of Prime: administration, medical care, access and convenience, coverage, information about coverage and costs.

Those surveyed said they are happiest with customer service and quality of medical care. They are less satisfied with such features as network size, accessibility of medical specialists and cost.

Sixty-two percent of active duty and 75 percent of active duty spouses, retirees and retiree spouses polled said they understand TRICARE. Eighty-nine percent of retirees and the spouses said they probably will re-enroll.

"For the most part, the survey results are good news," said Air Force Maj. John Slauson, assistant director of TRICARE marketing. "We found that satisfaction rates, when compared with an annual beneficiary survey done about nine months ago, have gone up."

In the past, beneficiaries complained most about access to health care. While those questioned in this survey reported improvements, Slauson said the perception persists that access remains a problem. "We need to continue our education and information activities," he said. "We've made improvements, but we can't rest on our laurels."

Sponsored by the assistant secretary of defense for health affairs, the survey was conducted in U.S. TRICARE regions where the program has been operational at least one year. The survey assessed beneficiaries' opinions of their understanding rather than their actual understanding of TRICARE and had a plus or minus 2 percent margin of error.

Although each of the five regions was surveyed separately, findings were similar, making it easier for planners to fine-tune the program nationwide.

"That's good news," said Army Lt. Col. Kate Ingram, TRICARE marketing director. "It means we don't have to provide different fixes for each region. What's right or wrong in one region probably is right or wrong across the nation. It also means TRICARE is doing what is was designed for -- provide a uniform health care benefit throughout DoD."

TRICARE brings together the health care resources of the Army, Navy and Air Force and supplements them with networks of civilian health care providers. TRICARE promises better access to high quality care while improving medical flexibility to support the broad range of military operations.

TRICARE Prime is one of three options under TRICARE and the only option in which most patients receive the majority of their health care from military hospitals and clinics. Under Prime, each patient has a primary care manager who guides the patient's total health care program. Prime also offers preventive care and wellness health services.

Active duty military personnel receive their health care in TRICARE Prime, while their family members and military retirees and their families may select Prime or use one of two other options, TRICARE Standard and TRICARE Extra. TRICARE Standard is the new name for the CHAMPUS program. TRICARE Extra is a program in which patients may choose to receive their health care from the Prime network of civilian health care professionals at a lower cost than if they chose to use TRICARE Standard.

TRICARE was first implemented in the Pacific Northwest (Region 11) in 1995. Since then, it has been implemented by region throughout most of the Western United States, in Hawaii, along the Gulf Coast and in most of the Southeast United States. Implementation throughout the remainder of the United States is scheduled by the end of 1997.

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