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Alternative Health Plan Offers Toll-free Information

By Douglas J. Gillert
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 12, 1998 – A nationwide toll-free information line now offers enrollment assistance to military families and retirees who choose the Uniformed Services Family Health Plan over TRICARE. The new number is (800) 258-7347.

Unlike TRICARE, DoD's principal health care plan, the family health plan offers care in its service areas to retirees 65 and older. A new TRICARE Senior Prime demonstration will begin soon to test the feasibility of extending care to this age group.

Formerly called Uniformed Services Treatment Facilities, the family health plan has provided health care since 1981 to family members and retirees located in areas where they don't have access to health care in a military facility. In a recent survey, nine out of 10 members rated their overall satisfaction with the program as good to excellent.

USFHP provides comprehensive health care benefits, including eye care, prescription drugs and preventive care, comparable to TRICARE. Some 113,000 eligible active duty family members, retirees and their family members in 11 states are covered by USFHP through its seven not-for-profit civilian health systems:

  • Johns Hopkins Medical Services Corporation of Maryland;
  • Bayley Seton Hospital in New York and New Jersey;Brighton Marine Health Center in Massachusetts and Rhode Island;
  • Martin's Point Health Care in Maine and New Hampshire;
  • Fairview Health System, a subsidiary of the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio;
  • Sisters of Charity Health Care System in Texas and Louisiana; and
  • Pacific Medical Clinics in Seattle.

Eligible active duty family members can enroll anytime of the year, said Megan Lower, program director. Others can enroll during open seasons.

"The Uniformed Services Family Health Plan is pleased to offer this new toll-free service to make it as easy as possible for the military community to best understand their health care options," Lower said. Because the plan offers stability in a changing military health care environment, Lower said she believes there will be widespread interest. "We anticipate that military families and retirees will want to take a close look at the choice offered by the [plan] in our service areas."

Persons enrolled in the plan are ineligible for TRICARE and vice-versa, until the other enrollment expires, DoD health officials said. However, Uniformed Services Family Health Plan physicians may refer their patients to military medical treatment facilities for additional care.

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