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AUSA Seeks Waiver of Mail-Order Prescription Copay

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Lesley Atkinson
Wednesday, April 01, 2020

The Association of the U.S. Army has joined in an effort asking Congress to immediately waive Tricare copayments for mail-order prescriptions.

In a joint letter to Congress, AUSA and other military and veterans’ groups say pharmacies at military treatment facilities are “high-traffic areas” that should be avoided during the global coronavirus pandemic, but the Tricare fee structure discourages beneficiaries from going elsewhere for their prescriptions.

“With patients coming to pharmacies to obtain refills of prescriptions amid the COVID-19 pandemic, MTF pharmacies are becoming even busier and more congested than normal,” says a letter to congressional leaders. “This is exactly the opposite of effective social distancing,” the letter says, referring to health protection recommendations to keep about 6 feet from others to avoid spreading the virus.

Pharmacies at military treatment facilities are already adjusting their operations, with temporary measures that include alternative pickup solutions, such as curbside pickup; transfer of non-active-duty service members or family members to retail options or mail delivery; or closure of the pharmacy.

Tricare is encouraging beneficiaries to switch to home delivery, which can provide up to a 90-day supply of most medications, or a retail network pharmacy for prescription supplies of 14 days or less.

The Tricare pharmacy copayment structure, set by Congress, encourages the use of military pharmacies rather than mail order by its fee structure. There is no copayment to fill prescriptions in person at the MTF pharmacy, while many beneficiaries pay between $7 and $60 for each medication filled through Tricare’s mail-order pharmacy service.

There have already been disruptions in pharmacy services due to pharmacy staff at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama, and Fort Eustis, Virginia, testing positive for the COVID-19 virus. 

“Congress should act now to protect active-duty service members, veterans, their eligible family member beneficiaries, and MTF staff by eliminating the TRICARE mail-order pharmacy copayment for the duration of the COVID-19 national emergency,” says the letter to Congress.

Quick congressional action is unlikely. After several lawmakers tested positive for the virus, Congress went into recess until at least April 20.