Ore. lawmakers fight military health care cuts

Ask TRICARE boss to explain, explore options

KTVZ.COM news sources
POSTED: 9:31 AM PDT October 24, 2012 
Medicine generic AP
WASHINGTON -

Oregon's congressional delegation is reacting with dismay and questions to a recent surprise announcement that TRICARE, the military’s civilian-based health care insurance program, will no longer offer their most economical plan to veterans and military families who don't live within 40 miles of a military treatment facility.

The Oregon congressional delegation said Wednesday it has sent a letter to the director of TRICARE Management, seeking the rationale behind the change and urging the program to explore alternatives.

In the letter to Jonathon Woodson, Sens.rs Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.); and Reps. Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.), Greg Walden (R-Ore.), Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.), Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) and Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) expressed concern that this major change in who the program would cover is both sudden and unexpected and will have an outsized impact on Oregon due to the location of its few military facilities.

“While this might not have a significant impact in a smaller state, or one with more active-duty military installations, this will have a major impact on Oregon TRICARE users,” the delegation wrote.

“The only 2 MTFs in Oregon are both located on the coast, leaving tens of thousands of retirees and others with the more expensive TRICARE Standard as their only choice,” they said.

Many veterans and their families take advantage of TRICARE Prime – the most economical insurance policy offered in the system.

Oregon’s thousands of military veterans living more than 40 miles from the two military treatment facilities will be forced to either switch to the more expensive Standard insurance plan or leave the TRICARE program altogether.

This major change is happening with little notice, leaving many veterans unaware that they stand to lose their healthcare coverage so soon unless they switch to the more expensive plan.

“We understand that there is concern about the costs associated with medical care for military members and retirees, but this proposal unfairly penalizes residents of select states and areas,” the delegation continued in the letter. “In addition, imposing these changes without significant prior notice is simply wrong.”