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Begich Applauds TRICARE Reimbursement Extension

Military members, families and retirees benefit from program

U.S. Sen. Mark Begich on Dec. 16  applauded a decision by the TRICARE Management Agency (TMA) to extend for another year a health care rate reimbursement demonstration program in Alaska that benefits military members, their families and retirees.

In order to improve access for TRICARE beneficiaries in Alaska, three years ago TMA implemented a demonstration program allowing the agency to reimburse civilian doctors at a rate 1.35 times the current MEDICARE allowable rates. TMA estimates civilian provider participation in the TRICARE program has increased by 57 percent since the demonstration program began.

"The success of this demonstration project has been enormous and is clearly benefiting those military members, families and retirees in Alaska who depend on the military health care system," Begich said. "It is excellent news when the federal government sees the value in an existing program and has the wisdom to keep it going to continue the success."

When the program was started in 2006, TMA said the delivery of health care services in Alaska represents a unique situation that can't be fully addressed by strictly applying the same reimbursement rules that apply in the other 49 states. The goal of the demonstration program was to test how the increased reimbursement rate would impact delivery of health care services to TRICARE beneficiaries, which could impact military medical readiness, morale and welfare.

"We know when military members can't obtain health care services in Alaska due to capacity constraints at military treatment facilities or the inability to find a civilian provider, they often have to go outside the state for treatment," Begich said. "I think what we've seen with this program is because it's working, we are saving on the expense and loss of duty time that is incurred when people go to Seattle or other places for health care services.  Not to mention it's more convenient for the users."

As a member of the Veterans Affairs and Armed Services Committees, Sen. Begich has made improving care and opportunities for military members, families and veterans a priority of his Senate service.

The notice of extension will be published in the Federal Register by the end of the year.



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