Budget Adds Major TRICARE Benefits for Active Duty
By Staff Sgt. Kathleen T. Rhem, USA
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Nov. 30, 2000 Active duty members and their families should look for major new benefits coming soon in DoD's TRICARE managed healthcare plan, a senior program official said.
Air Force Col. Frank Cumberland, TRICARE Management Activity director of communications and customer service, said the most publicized TRICARE change in the defense budget signed Oct. 30 has been the opening up of benefits to Medicare-eligible retirees age 65 and older. The coming wave of change, however, won't overlook active duty members and families, he added.
Some of the benefits being added to TRICARE within the next year include:
- Active duty family members enrolled in TRICARE Prime will no longer have to make co-payments for care from a civilian provider after April 1, 2001.
- Family members of active duty troops in remote locations become eligible for the TRICARE Prime Remote program Oct. 1, 2001.
- DoD will have a five-year period to phase in making chiropractic care available to active duty troops.
TRICARE and health affairs officials are still working out the details on these changes and will announce them when plans are complete, Cumberland said.
TRICARE managers are also working to increase access to school physicals, eliminate the need for some nonavailability statements and some referrals for specialty care. Some of these issues may not come to pass before a new TRICARE contract is awarded, perhaps in 2003 or 2004, program officials advised.
Dr. H. James Sears, executive director of the TRICARE Management Activity, called the changes outlined in this year's budget legislation "the biggest platter of benefit changes" since the mid-1960s. TRICARE, he said, is adding benefits and continues to lower beneficiaries' out-of- pocket costs and, in the process, taking the irritants out of the TRICARE program and improving accessibility."
Sears added that people generally evaluate their healthcare system based on three factors:
- The quality of care.
- The range of benefits. "Does my plan cover everything that might happen to me?" Sears said.
- Cost. "Can I afford it?" he said.
"When you look at TRICARE, those are all slam dunks," Sears said.
For more information, visit the TRICARE Web site at www.tricare.osd.mil.