Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) noted that there are only two MTFs in his state, both Coast Guard clinics located on the Pacific coast.
“I also fear that, with the elimination of the Prime option, the network of providers who support this option may no longer be able or willing to provide services to TRICARE beneficiaries,” Walden wrote to Woodson last week. “My constituents have informed me that they prefer the caliber of care and ease of obtaining in-network services provided by their TRICARE Prime primary care managers over the services offered by the TRICARE Standard option.”
Walden said he’s dismayed by an impending reduction to active duty service members, reservists, Guardsmen, retirees, and their families, but is concerned about when the Department of Defense plans to let beneficiaries know about the changes.
“If you are planning to make these changes, but are waiting to inform the TRICARE beneficiaries for whatever reason, I encourage you to make the announcement immediately,” he said, as the changes could have a “significant impact on the lives” of those who have served this country.
Walden also joined in a letter this week to Woodson penned by the greater Oregon delegation, including Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Reps. Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.), Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.), Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) and Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.).
“While this might not have a significant impact in a smaller state, or one with more active-duty military installations, this will have a major impact on Oregon TRICARE users,” the delegation wrote. “The only 2 MTFs in Oregon are both located on the coast, leaving tens of thousands of retirees and others with the more expensive TRICARE Standard as their only choice.”
The delegation asked for a meeting with Woodson to discuss proposed changes and explore possible alternatives.
“We understand that there is concern about the costs associated with medical care for military members and retirees, but this proposal unfairly penalizes residents of select states and areas,” they wrote. “In addition, imposing these changes without significant prior notice is simply wrong.”
TRICARE Prime users already saw a 17 percent increase in the cost for most retirees on the plan as of Oct. 1, only the second hike since the program’s inception in 1995.
The Obama administration had pressed for even greater fees, but bipartisan majorities in the House and Senate Armed Services Committees struck down that attempt.