Congressman Mark Amodei (NV-2) today introduced, as an original cosponsor, the TRICARE Protection Act, to protect thousands of Northern Nevada's military retirees and their families from changes to TRICARE Prime that will reportedly be implemented by the Department of Defense (DoD). He joined Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) and Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.) in drafting the bipartisan plan.
"You can't pull the rug out from under people who are in a program and depend on it," said Amodei. "Northern Nevada has a particularly high concentration of military retirees, which appears to be why it is among the targeted areas for this change. Our military retirees and their families earned these benefits and their access to high-quality health care needs to be protected."
News reports indicated that the DOD plans to eliminate TRICARE Prime in several areas, beginning April 1, 2013, including Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Northern Nevada, and Oregon. Beneficiaries in the affected areas would be moved to TRICARE Standard, which would increase out-of-pocket costs and could reduce access to primary care providers for military retirees and their families throughout Northern Nevada.
When Amodei learned of the reports in October, he wrote to Dr. Jonathan Woodson, the DOD official in charge of health care, to express his concerns with the plan and to urge DOD to announce the planned changes immediately. DOD has not publicly announced any details regarding the switch, nor has it responded to Amodei's and other lawmakers' requests for more information.
"The administration's refusal to communicate and to be transparent regarding their intent for Nevadans has forced this action by the Congress," said Amodei.
The TRICARE Protection Act would require DOD to:
Issue a report to Congress within 90 days identifying areas where TRICARE Prime will no longer be available, as well as estimating increased costs and other affects to beneficiaries as a result of the changes.
Establish a navigator service to assist affected eligible beneficiaries in locating primary care providers.
Enroll eligible beneficiaries in TRICARE Prime Remote if it is determined that the beneficiaries would not otherwise have access to primary care providers who meet TRICARE access standards.