Walden still concerned by TRICARE cuts

Though pleased by delay in most cutbacks

By KTVZ.COM news sources
POSTED: 12:44 PM PST January 30, 2013    UPDATED: 6:05 PM PST January 10, 2013 
Rep. Greg Walden
HERMISTON, Ore. -

Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) said Thursday he's pleased by a delay in cuts to a military retirees health care program but still concerned about the planned October cutbacks.

Walen reacted to the Pentagon’s official announcement that TRICARE Prime will be eliminated for 171,000 military retirees nationwide, including many in Oregon, beginning October 1, 2013 (click here for a summary of the changes from the Pentagon).

“Military retirees who served our nation in uniform deserve the very best care our nation has to offer. While it is welcome news that the Pentagon has delayed the elimination of TRICARE Prime for most areas until October 1, I remain concerned about the effect this change could have on military retirees and their families in Oregon.

"The Pentagon should provide more information about these proposed changes to those affected, and I look forward to reading the report they are required by law to submit within 90 days. I will continue to work across the aisle with my colleagues in Congress to make sure our men and women in uniform have the care they were promised,” Walden said.

Last month, Walden, along with Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.) and Rep. Mark Amodei (R-Nev.), helped secure language requiring the Pentagon to detail and address upcoming changes to TRICARE Prime in this year’s defense authorization law.

The law requires the Pentagon to assess the increased cost and overall impact that TRICARE changes will have on military retirees and their families, and, within 90 days, inform Congress of its plan to provide them with a smooth transition.

“Now that most TRICARE Prime patients will be switched to a different insurance plan, TRICARE Standard, patients aren’t assured that their current primary care physician and health providers will be part of their network,” Walden said. “It’s up to the Pentagon to make sure that care is not interrupted for these patients.”

TRICARE Prime is available to thousands of military retirees under the age of 65 along the I-5 corridor in Oregon, including about 2,500 military retirees in southern Oregon.

Additionally, the Prime option is available to a small number of military retirees within 100 miles of the I-5 corridor, such as Klamath Falls, Bend and Hood River, who chose to keep their primary care provider after moving.

Many military retirees have told Walden that they prefer their current plan and are concerned with the upcoming changes.

In October, Walden heard reports that TRICARE was planning to drop 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.

TRICARE for Life, the program all military retirees over age 65 are covered by, will not be affected by these changes.