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Reimer Challenges Medics to Get TRICARE Right

By Douglas J. Gillert
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 2, 1999 – TRICARE is fundamental to military readiness and quality of life, so let's get it right, Gen. Dennis Reimer said Feb. 1 at the annual TRICARE conference here.

Because the managed health care plan is so important, the Army chief of staff said, DoD must fine-tune it, from improving access to making sure service members and their families receive the highest quality "cradle to grave" care available.

Reimer said TRICARE must meet the standards it was set up for. He cited Army inspector general complaints and a recent survey in the Pacific Northwest as good measures of how far TRICARE has come and, similarly, how far it has yet to go to meet acceptable standards. Although only 5 percent of Army IG complaints are about TRICARE, he said, "every one of those complaints is a horror story."

Reimer also noted results of TRICARE surveys, particularly one in the Pacific Northwest, that showed high, but not 100 percent, satisfaction with the health plan.

"We have to make sure that we are not satisfied with standards that only address 75 percent of satisfaction," he said. "That's not going to cut it in today's Army. Our soldiers are entitled to better than 25 percent failure.

"Don't rest on your laurels just because 89 percent of claims are processed within 30 days," he told the worldwide gathering of health care providers and administrators. "We must attack the other 11 percent, because those 11 percent are critical to us."

Reimer also urged medical leaders attending the conference, including defense health chief Dr. Sue Bailey, to make sure recruiters and others assigned to remote locations aren't left out. He said delivering health care to them is DoD's most difficult challenge. "If we can solve that, we'll solve the rest," he said.

"If we're not going to be able to provide those people the quality of life they deserve -- they're entitled to -- then we're not going to be able to have the readiness of the force that we really need," Reimer said. "We recognized many years ago that quality of life is an integral part of readiness. It's not just training, it's not just equipment, but it's how you treat soldiers, how you provide for the care of their families, that is terribly important."

Reimer said TRICARE has tremendous potential. He applauded the efforts of the medics to bring TRICARE on line, but challenged them to concentrate on what needs to be fixed. "We've got to get it right," he said, "because it is so critical to us."

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