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Services Ordered to Keep Moving on Medical Reform

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U.S. Army
Monday, December 23, 2019

Consolidation and reform of the military health care system remains a priority for Congress.

In a report accompanying the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act, negotiators who worked on the bill said they “are aware of a lack of consensus in the [Defense] Department on implementing the reforms required by law but see no reason to change direction.”

“The conferees expect the Secretary of Defense to fully implement the law and to accomplish these critically important reforms expeditiously,” the report says, referring to lawmakers assigned to the House-Senate conference committee who wrote the final policy bill.

Since Oct. 1, the Defense Health Agency has assumed administrative and management responsibilities over all military medical facilities. The move could lead to the realignment of about 17,000 billets for uniformed medical personnel while also creating a market-based regional organizational structure for hospitals and clinics.

The compromise bill limits some realignment or reduction of medical personnel, saying lawmakers expect a review and analysis by each service secretary of the manpower requirements of “all national security strategy scenarios” before new reductions can be made. That limitation doesn’t apply to jobs that have been unfilled since Oct. 1, 2018.