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McCarthy Seeks to Delay Military Hospital Merger

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DoD
Wednesday, January 15, 2020

The Army wants to delay further transfer of its major military hospitals to the Defense Health Agency in a move intended to temporarily halt a global merger.

Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy said he is not opposed to the health care reform effort aimed at increasing efficiencies and standardizing practices across the Defense Department. What does worry him is the timing.

“If you do it too fast, you can make a mess,” McCarthy told the Defense Writers Group at a Jan. 15 breakfast. He said he would be talking with Congress later that day about his concerns. “We have 1.2 million people in uniform. This is just too important to get wrong.”

Congress approved a merger that is supposed to be completed by fall 2021.

“This is the health care of our soldiers and their families,” McCarthy said. “How you transition is incredibly important.”

McCarthy was a senior aide to Defense Secretary Robert Gates in 2007 when problems became public about the treatment of wounded warriors at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. He recalls part of the reason for the problems was several hospitals were merging. “They made some terrible mistakes and affected the health care of wounded personnel,” he said.

This is a big effort that will consolidate thousands of people under a single organization and could eliminate some positions, something McCarthy said involves “cultural dynamics and synergies you are trying to achieve.” It is important, he said, to fully understand the transition of responsibility before moving ahead. “It is not altogether clear how that is coming together.”