Monday, May 02, 2016

Military health care reform poses many challenges and opportunities warned a panel of experts at the Association of the U.S. Army’s Global Force Military Family Forum recently.

"Our nation’s health care industry is undergoing rapid change, and it is within this context that the military health care system finds itself at a crossroads," stated Capt. Kathryn M. Beasley, USN, Ret., fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives, and co-chair, Health Care Committee, The Military Coalition. "It must sustain the advances and skills learned from the past 15 years of combat experience and it cannot compromise on its readiness platforms. Thus, any health care reform must support the goal of sustaining an operationally ready force with a ready medical force. How to most effectively accomplish this without negatively impacting retention and readiness is one of the key issues."

Military and civilian experts discussed issues regarding access to care, health care options for military children, and proposed changes to military health care found in the president’s 2017 budget.

Questions from the audience ranged from setting up urgent health care facilities on military installations to why military retirees should return to TRICARE Prime if access to care issues still remain a concern.

Vice Adm. Raquel Bono, director of the Defense Health Agency (DHA), communicated the department’s commitment and steps to improving access to care at military treatment facilities (MTFs), while acknowledging the challenges faced by some beneficiaries’ access to care, leading to some military retirees leaving TRICARE Prime. She emphasized that recapturing care into MTFs is a strategic priority of both the military health system and the DHA and explained that the recapture efforts help provide military doctors with an active clinical practice to sustain skills, offer superb care to patients and lowers costs for the entire system.

When asked about what steps the Department of Defense (DoD) or Congress is taking to make military health care more comparable to civilian health care, Joyce Raezer, executive director for the National Military Family Association (NMFA) replied, "It’s not a matter about actually making military health care more comparable to civilian health care – civilian care has problems too. We want the best possible care for military families. DoD and Congress should be focusing on what’s working in military health care and why, and listening to families and groups like NMFA that represent families about what’s not working."

She went on to say that both organizations should "focus on keeping what’s working – such as combat care – strong, and be open to ideas from the civilian sector or from segments within the military health system that do something well on how to improve things like access to care in military hospitals and clinics, improvements to benefits, and better addressing the needs of children and young families."

Brig. Gen. R. Scott Dingle, deputy chief of staff for operations, G-3/5/7, U.S. Army Medical Command, shared with the audience how Army Medicine is transitioning from a "Health Care System" to a "System for Health." He highlighted the Performance Triad as a great example and emphasized that improving the health literacy of soldiers and family members encourages wiser choices when it comes to sleep, diet, and exercise, and ultimately optimizes the performance of soldiers in the field and elsewhere.

Regular Army, Army National Guard, and retiree families attended AUSA’s "The Future of Military Health Care" family forum, the first forum targeting family members in the history of the Global Force Symposium and Exposition.

Attendees relayed how much they appreciated the opportunity to hear from leaders in the military medical community and expressed a strong desire for AUSA to continue to bring these types of family focused forums to the AUSA Global Force Symposium and Exposition for years to come.


Patty Barron
AUSA Family Readiness