Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., introduced a bill, the TRICARE Protection Act, on Wednesday to protect thousands of Oregon military retirees from changes to TRICARE Prime that will soon be implemented by the Pentagon.
Walden was joined by Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.) and Rep. Mark Amodei (R-Nev.) in writing the bipartisan plan.
“Thousands of Oregonians who have worn our nation’s uniform are at risk of losing access to their health care provider when the popular TRICARE Prime option is eliminated for many beneficiaries by the Pentagon," Walden said.
"This could mean higher out-of-pocket costs and longer drives for many Oregon military retirees. These heroes have put their lives on the line for our freedom. They deserve the very best care our nation has to offer,” he added.
“Our common-sense, bipartisan proposal will require the Pentagon to report on the impact these changes will have on Oregon military retirees and their families, so they will know what is being planned," the congressman said.
"It also requires that the Pentagon guarantee that those affected retain access to a primary care doctor for two years to allow for a smooth transition under the switch," he said.
TRICARE Prime is available to thousands of military retirees in the I-5 corridor in Oregon, including about 2,500 military retirees in southern Oregon. Many military retirees have told Rep. Walden that they prefer the quality of care and ease of obtaining services over alternative options.
In October, Walden heard reports that TRICARE was planning on dropping the Prime option for most TRICARE beneficiaries in Oregon.
He wrote to the Pentagon official in charge of health care, Dr. Jonathan Woodson, to express his deep concerns with the plan, and to urge Dr. Woodson to announce the planned changes immediately (for a copy of the letter, click here).
The entire Oregon delegation followed up with a letter the following week. So far, Dr. Woodson’s office has not responded to either letter.
Summary of the TRICARE Protection Act
· The Department of Defense is required to issue a report to the Congress within 90 days identifying areas where TRICARE Prime will no longer be available and an estimate of increased costs and impacts to beneficiaries as a result of the changes.
- Establishment of a navigator service to assist affected eligible beneficiaries in locating a primary care provider.
- Ability for eligible beneficiaries to enroll in TRICARE Prime Remote if the Secretary determines that the beneficiary would not otherwise have access to a primary care provider that meets the TRICARE access standards.
- Identification by the Secretary of Defense of beneficiaries without access to a primary care provider because of the contract switch.
- Implementation of above services to take place 60 days after the date on which the Secretary submits the report mentioned above.
- Implementation of above services for two years to allow for ease of transition to primary care provider for retirees and their families.