Tuesday, October 6th, 2009 - 18:07
“The goal is to provide the best care and services,
access whenever and wherever you need it, and
with this new generation of contracts, to really
focus on health and prevention.”
The provision of healthcare services is a critical mission for the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) and its military health system (MHS). It goes to the core of military readiness. From frontline combat support hospitals to its TRICARE program, the MHS provides care to its troops and their families on multiple fronts. “The [MHS] , the entire system,” explains Rear Admiral Christine Hunter, M.D., deputy director, TRICARE Management Activity, “exists to provide health services in support of our nation’s military mission. We say ‘anytime, anywhere,’ and more recently, ‘whatever it takes, wherever it takes us.’”
With close to 9.5 million in beneficiaries and a budget in the tens of billions of dollars, Hunter manages a TRI CARE program that plays an important role in having an MHS that is fully integrated. The centerpiece of the MHS is the military hospitals and clinics—what is called the direct care system— places where military medical providers deliver care, where they train for their readiness mission, where they take care of families and provide care on bases and stations around the world.
“Complementing the direct care system,” notes Hunter, “is a family of contract-type products in which we use civilian medical resources to provide care, either where military care is not accessible, where we are not physically present, or where there are additional services that we would like to provide to enhance our benefit program.” TRICARE is the healthcare program serving active duty service members, National Guard and Reserve members, and retirees as well as their families, survivors, and certain former spouses worldwide.
Care is delivered through what Hunter calls a TRICARE family of products. They range from a health maintenance organization option with TRICARE Prime, to a fee-for-service option with TRICARE Standard, to a preferred provider option under the TRICARE Extra program “In addition, we have dental plans. Our TRICARE for Life plan is essentially a wraparound to Medicare for those who are over 65. We have our newest addition to the family of plans, our TRICARE Reserve Select,” describes Hunter.