Military Health Care: A Changing Landscape

healthcare benefits post it note

Christopher Plein, Ph.D., West Virginia University & MFLN Military Caregiving Concentration Team

Much of the work of the Military Families Learning Network focuses on providing ready access to important information relating to trends and developments in family readiness resources and services.  Among the most important of these are services and benefits offered through the Defense Health Agency, such as the TRICARE program that provides health benefits to service members, their families, and many military retirees.

In previous blog posts, we have noted some of the important developments and trends in military health care over time.  Recent legislation, such as National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017 and the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019 have helped propel changes that are making healthcare delivery for military families that reflect broader trends in the civilian healthcare system.

More recent developments in family readiness as they pertain to healthcare service and delivery can be found in congressional summary documents accompanying the recently passed National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020.

Our team has also focused on these developments by hosting webinars providing information on changes and trends in TRICARE and its related benefits and services.  In the past, this has included reviews of TRICARE and TRICARE’s Extended Care Health Option (ECHO) benefit that is especially relevant to those with family members with special health care needs.

TRICARE Benefits in 2020 & Beyond

In January 2019, our team hosted a webinar on TRICARE Benefits in 2020 & Beyond, presented by Captain Ed Simmer, representing the Defense Health Agency. Captain Simmer provided an informative overview of major and recent developments in TRICARE.

Through TRICARE and delivery system changes and reforms, the DHA is focused on making the healthcare system more effective and efficient. This includes efforts to streamline and centralize processes and practices to ease patient access to the system and to promote overall care coordination. As he put it, it’s “an evolutionary process” adding that “we are far down the road” in transforming the military health system.

This webinar, which has been recorded and is accessible through the MFLN, provides information on many aspects of TRICARE.  Those who interested in a general overview the main coverage programs (TRICARE PRIME and STANDARD) as well as more specialized services and information for those with special healthcare needs, those who facing PCS moves, and those preparing for retirements will especially benefit from this presentation.  The presentation also provides insights on trends in behavioral healthcare in the military community, as well as specific information about future plans for the TRICARE program and the military healthcare delivery system.

As mentioned in a recent blog post, the larger professional health community is taking notice of developments in military healthcare.  The journal Health Affairs recently featured a special issue on Military Health Systems containing articles that provide an invaluable primer for those interested in the current status of military health care delivery.

Key Takeaways 

The big take-away from recent congressional action, DHA and TRICARE program initiatives, and research and analysis found in broader professional community, is that the military health system continues to evolve in ways that mirror major trends in the civilian healthcare. Major changes are now underway, and it is important for us to stay-up-to-date on developments.  The MFLN Military Caregiving Team will continue to provide resources and information on these and other trends relating to military healthcare and family readiness.

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