According to Lt. General Ronald Place, director of Defense Health Agency, as the military health system is being updated, there will be more military clinics and hospitals that no longer take patients that are retired along with their families. This may also apply to some relatives of active-duty service members.
Once the Pentagon has finalized their analyses of its military medical institutions and how prepared they are for situations, there will be more non-active duty members that will be moved over to the medical networks of Tricare. It is still not known how many beneficiaries will be made to transfer from military medical facilities. It is also not known as to which facilities will have to follow these changes.
He states that these changes with missions and service members will be affecting non-service members. Some situations he gave were those in Fort Jackson, Fort Still, and Fort Knox, which have been changed from hospitals to clinics for outpatients. The changes, unfortunately, made them no longer except retired service member and their relatives, as well as some relatives of active-duty personnel.
Lt. General Place stated that these kinds of reconfigurations and alterations would be expected to happen more. He does not state a specific time, but that these changes will occur as the organization is always changing and growing.
This health system change to move every military clinic and hospital for the Defense Health Agency to take over has been discussed for the past three years. They are also redesigning the system so that that military medical personnel will mainly take care of active duty service members and missions.
This change will see the Air Force, Army, and Navy decrease their medical personnel by 17,944 billets. Meanwhile, the Defense Health Agency is reviewing all medical facilities under military command to see if they should be expanded or closed depending on capabilities of readiness.
The Defense Department is contemplating new contracts for Tricare, as these networks will see more retirees and relatives of them and active-duty members within.
These changes are made under the Nation Defense Authorization Act of 2017. However, politicians are concerned as the Department of Defense has not been quite clear about their endeavors, including having delayed a report by one year about what lies ahead for every military medical facility.
Representative Jackie Speier (D-CA), Subcommittee on Military Personnel’s chairwoman, along with ranking member Representative Trent Kelly (R-MS) stated in a House Armed Services Hearing in early December that they have noticed in areas of the U.S. such as Seattle and San Francisco, that relatives of retirees or some current military personnel were having bookings set far out in the future at military institutions and that they were not able to get proper treatment.
Representative Speier believes that these places either do not have the ability or are not wanting to enroll Tricare members due to market oversaturation.
Both Representative Kelly and Speier see that the DoD is handling these reconfigurations with saving money as their priority and that the Department must first need to understand how Tricare can manage these new civilian patients.
Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs, Tom McCaffery responded that military relatives and retired military personnel were included in their mission to redesign the military health system that encourages force readiness.
Representative Susan Davis (D-CA) asked what the plans are and how they will be able to assure that these patients that are being moved to Tricare will not get their benefits taken away.
McCaffery state that the report on these reconfigurations would be introduced to Congress in the near future. However, this report was expected in December of 2018.
McCaffery mentioned at AMSUS that the report on the medical treatment facility restructuring plan ( that due to Congress in December 2018) would be submitted to Congress “very soon.”
Representative advised that these actions must be done with caution when facility closures and personnel cuts are involved.