Pentagon Waits to Tell Vets They May Lose Prime Health Coverage

Veterans in select areas of the country may soon be hit with a reduction in health care coverage, a proposal that has sparked outcry from lawmakers representing affected regions.

It looks like the announcement of the controversial move to discontinue TRICARE Prime for military members and their families in certain states, though, will wait until after Election Day.

As first reported by Military Times, starting April 1 TRICARE Prime services would be offered only to those living within 40 miles of a Military Treatment Facility as a result of the incoming contractor, United Healthcare, not planning on covering the services.

This would affect as many as 30,000 veterans and their families in Nevada, Oregon, Iowa, Minnesota, and Missouri. While those outside of an acceptable distance from an MTF wouldn't lose coverage, they would be reduced to the standard plan that carries higher out-of-pocket costs.

Lawmakers right and left have been sounding off to Dr. Jonathan Woodson, assistant secretary of Defense for Health Affairs, about the plans to nick healthcare in select TRICARE West Region markets.

For Rep. Mark Amodei's (R) massive land sprawl of the 2nd Congressional District in Nevada, the MTF location at Fallon Naval Air Station, which covers the northern part of the state, is out of reach for most -- including Reno.

"I am very concerned about reports that the incoming contractor for the TRICARE West Region does not plan to continue the current TRICARE Prime Service to communities in Northern Nevada that are currently being serviced by the present contractor," Amodei said in a letter to Woodson this week.

"In a state consisting of 110,000 square miles and one of the highest concentrations of veterans per capita, this change would eliminate the Prime option for thousands of TRICARE beneficiaries in Nevada who rely on it for medical care."

Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) said if the Pentagon is planning on cutting these benefits, military families need to know right away.

"I am very troubled by these changes and am concerned that these alterations are not being made in a transparent manner," Heller wrote to Woodson.

"Has the Pentagon reached a decision to cut TRICARE Prime providers in Northern Nevada?" he asked. "If so, is the Pentagon waiting to announce this decision? Why? Do you agree that such cuts will cost more money and/or result in longer drives for care to those currently enrolled in TRICARE Prime?"

Reports citing Pentagon sources indicated that discussions have included delaying a formal announcement until after Nov. 6.