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IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Release No: 387-00
July 06, 2000

DEBT COLLECTION ASSISTANCE OFFICER PROGRAM TO EASE TRICARE CREDIT HASSLES

The Department of Defense announced today a new debt collection assistance officer program to help servicemembers, retirees and their eligible family members with TRICARE-related debt problems. For the first time, an assistance officer located at each military treatment facility (MTF) and TRICARE lead agent office, will be the single point of contact when a TRICARE beneficiary needs help with these kinds of problems.

"We do not want our servicemembers to have the burden of resolving individual claims. They should not have to worry about negotiations with multiple agencies to settle outstanding claims, stressful notices from bill collectors and, sometimes, adverse ratings in their credit reports," said Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Bernard Rostker.

Identification of the assistance officers, scope of their responsibility and training will begin immediately. The new program will begin within 30 days.

Incorrect billing to servicemembers for outstanding medical bills was a key issue at the first Military Family Forum at the Pentagon on May 31.

Once contacted by a TRICARE-eligible beneficiary, the debt collection assistance officer will intercede with all agencies involved, including military personnel offices, the MTFs, lead agents, network and non-network providers, TRICARE Management Activity, managed care contractors, and even debt collection agencies when appropriate, to resolve a collection issue arising from a TRICARE claim.

The debt collection assistance officer will research the TRICARE claims history with the priority unit at the claims processor, and notify the beneficiary of the resolution. If appropriate, written documentation will be provided for use with national credit reporting companies in removing unwarranted adverse credit information related to TRICARE claims.

Servicemembers in remote locations may contact any debt collection assistance officer who is convenient for them. These points of contact will be identified by the military Services prior to implementation of the program.

"Our beneficiaries value their medical care benefit, and they have told us on surveys that it is a primary reason for staying in the military," said Rostker. "Our servicemembers deserve assistance and relief from unwarranted collection actions resulting from unpaid medical claims."

Seeking immediate help with questions regarding their medical bills remains the TRICARE beneficiary's best defense against credit problems, according to Rostker. This type of assistance is available at local TRICARE service centers and military treatment facilities. Beneficiaries also can call claims processors using their toll-free telephone numbers. Additional information about TRICARE claims processing can be found on the Military Health System/TRICARE Web site at: http://www.tricare.osd.mil/ .