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Navy not following Army's lead on health care

Naval Hospital Bremerton members pose for a photo on Aug. 1, 2012.

BREMERTON — Naval Hospital Bremerton officials want local sailors and their families to use their facilities, but, unlike Joint Base Lewis-McChord near Tacoma, aren’t making them leave private doctors.

Lewis-McChord, after opening new clinics in Puyallup and Lacey within the past two years, has extra capacity. Active-duty families that were allowed to use their Tricare military health insurance to pay for care at private facilities when space was tight are getting letters telling them to come back. The Army says military-run clinics can better track patients’ medical needs and influence their health.

Naval Hospital Bremerton also sent letters, but they only encourage families to enroll.

“NHB has been reaching out to eligible beneficiaries since October 2013 and has had some success,” said Capt. Christopher Quarles, hospital commanding officer. “For now, we will continue to encourage, not necessarily mandate, enrollment.”

The armed services are converting to new models for primary care, called patient-centered medical homes. The Navy’s is called Medical Home Port. Though the services are at different stages of implementing the changes, the goal is for all Tricare Prime enrollees to be enrolled in the next few years, according to the Defense Health Agency, which manages Military Health System activities.

Active-duty service members and their families are automatically enrolled in TriCare Prime, a health care program that costs them nothing and covers everything.

Under the Navy’s Medical Home Port, each patient is assigned a team led by a provider. The patient is a part of the team that also includes a nurse educator, care coordinator and other support staff, according to Vice Adm. Adam Robinson, surgeon general of the Navy.

“It will provide our service members and their families better access to care, reducing reliance on private-sector care and emergency room visits for off-hour, standard-care needs,” he said.

The Navy encourages patients sign up for web-based Relay Health to keep in touch with their team. There, they can get answers to routine questions, refill medications and receive test results, Quarles said.
 

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