DoD to focus on health care access problems

By Karen Jowers – Staff writer
Posted : Friday Jul 24, 2009 10:48:42 EDT

Although defense health care does not fall within the purview of Tommy Thomas, deputy undersecretary of defense for military community and family policy, military families do.  So Thomas is looking into military families’ complaints about access to health care.  He plans to travel to Fort Drum, N.Y., and Fort Campbell, Ky., with representatives from the Tricare Management Activity to hear firsthand about that particular issue, said Arthur Myers, principal director of the military community and family policy office, in testimony Wednesday before the House Armed Services military personnel subcommittee.  Myers noted that spouses testified in a Senate hearing earlier this year that they rated their health care as excellent, but access as poor.  “And what we’ve found out [is that] a lot of health professionals will not accept Tricare. So constantly we hear at Fort Campbell, these families have to travel to Nashville, an hour and a half, to get the care,” Myers said.  Rep. John Fleming, R-La., said that when he recently visited Fort Polk, La., a young woman who was 14 weeks pregnant said she had not yet been able to get an appointment with an obstetrician. “That’s atrocious,” Fleming said.  Families have complained about access to Tricare to some of the services’ senior enlisted advisors, who also testified at the hearing. “Soldiers and family members routinely list access to quality medical care as their biggest concern,” said Sergeant Major of the Army Kenneth Preston.  “One of the major accessibility challenges to getting quality medical care is finding sufficient health care providers outside our military installations who accept Tricare payment,” said Preston, who testified earlier this year about problems with access.


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