DoD Putting Off Announcement of TRICARE Cuts until After the Election

Posted by Jason Van Steenwyk

TRICARE Prime cutsMilitary Times is reporting that an unnamed source has said that the Department of Defense is deliberately delaying announcing broad cuts in TRICARE Prime benefits for some military members, retirees and their families until after “a certain date in November.”

The Presidential elections, with a lot of down-ticket races at stake as well, are scheduled for Tuesday, November 6th.

The planned changes would eliminate access to TRICARE Prime in five areas in the West and Midwest, including Iowa; Minnesota; Oregon; Reno, Nevada and Springfield, Missouri, effective April 1 of next year. As we reported last week, these changes have been contemplated by members of both parties since at least 2007, as a way to contain military health care costs. TRICARE Prime enrollees will have to enroll in TRICARE Standard, which provides less in the way of benefits.

The changes will affect perhaps as many as 170,000 participants, who would have to switch to Prime or drive farther to see a doctor.

The Administration is locked in a fierce battle to win the 2012 presidential contest – and health care and the economy are major issues.

At least one Congressman, Representative Greg Walden (R-OR) wants to know why the Pentagon is delaying the formal announcement.

The delay comes on the heels of another parallel controversy: The Obama Administration pressured the defense industry to delay issuing layoff notices legally required under the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notice Act (the “WARN Act”),  until after the election – a move that Senator Lindsey Graham argues is “patently illegal.”

Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) has also written to TRICARE’s chief doctor, asking for clarification – and pushing for a formal announcement of any cuts prior to the election.

At issue: A contract change between two providers. While the Pentagon is not confirming anything at this time, the incoming contractor for the TRICARE West region, United Healthcare, does not plan on providing TRICARE Prime services beyond 40 miles from major treatment facilities. This could cause around 30,000 plan participants to lose their access to the Prime plan, requiring them to pay more out of pocket.

 

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