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In Reversal, Defense Department Now Wants to Bring Tricare Beneficiaries Back to Military Health System

January 24, 2024

Patricia Kime

Pediatric Intensive Care Unit charge nurse secures a pulse oximeter on a patient at the Brooke Army Medical Center, Fort Sam Houston, Texas, March 8, 2022. (U.S. Army photo by Jason W. Edwards)

By Patricia Kime, / January 24, 2024

The Defense Department is doing an about-face on a major component of reforms it launched seven years ago to reduce medical care costs, abandoning a plan to push family members and military retirees to private-sector care.

In a memo sent last month to senior Pentagon leaders, Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks outlined an effort to "re-attract" beneficiaries to military hospitals and clinics -- at least 7% of those now receiving medical care through Tricare, the DoD's private health program, by Dec. 31, 2026.

Hicks said certain elements of the DoD's health system overhaul, which was mandated by Congress in 2017, have left military treatment facilities, or MTFs, "chronically understaffed" and unable to deliver timely care to all patients.

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