Military health officials bracing for budget cuts
YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — Military health officials are bracing for federal government budget cuts and expect immediate cuts to research, facility repairs and new equipment, the Pentagon’s top health official said this week.
Additionally, medical services for many of the nation’s 9.6 million Tricare beneficiaries likely would be affected if civilian healthcare workers are furloughed, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs Dr. Jonathan Woodson said.
“This may mean a decrease in clinic appointment availability or longer wait times to see providers,” Woodson wrote in a posted blog. “Local hospital and clinic commanders will need to manage service availability while ensuring that the quality of care and safety of patients remain intact.”
Patients who are treated at private clinics using their Tricare benefit are not expected to be impacted by the funding cuts, he wrote.
The U.S. military operates 56 hospitals and 365 clinics in the U.S. and around the world, with roughly a $50 billion annual budget. The 58,369 civilians who work in the military health system represent about 40 percent of its total workforce, according to a Feb. 28 congressional report.
Retirees — including their spouses and survivors — account for 58 percent of Tricare beneficiaries. Active-duty family members are 25 percent of the patient population, while active-duty servicemembers represent the rest.