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WASHINGTON — Cost-cutting measures in the military health system’s proposed fiscal 2008 budget could mean a cut in hours at some on-base clinics and longer lines in the waiting room, and could push some families off-base for medical specialists, according to the services’ top medical officials.

“Our cuts will be equivalent to losing one of our large family-practice hospitals,” Navy Surgeon General Vice Adm. Donald Arthur told members of a House armed services subcommittee Tuesday. “We will have to have serious conversations about what services we can still provide.”

In February, defense officials presented Congress a $20.7 billion defense health budget for fiscal 2008, down slightly from the previous year.

But included in that plan is $1.8 billion assumed savings from unspecified cuts to various departments. For example, Pentagon officials have directed military facilities managers to come up with $248 million in savings from their projects, and pharmacy managers are being asked to find $278 million in savings from improvements to the defense pharmacy program.

The savings assumptions have come under fire from Congress, and Pentagon officials said they may reconsider those estimates before lawmakers finalize the military spending bills later this year.

But Maj. Gen. Gale Pollock, acting surgeon general of the Army, said if those estimates aren’t realized the money will have to be trimmed elsewhere. She expects longer lines at base medical facilities, closings of some clinics and cuts to staffing.

“And if we cut services and have to send them out to private-sector care, we also lose our ability to ensure the continuity of care,” she said. “We lose our ability to track the quality of care.”

Committee members called the cuts in service unacceptable.

“At what point does this start to affect retention? Because as we know, families feel the medical benefits they get are fabulous,” said Rep. Susan Davis, D-Calif.

“When a mom can’t see a pediatrician, or doesn’t feel like the pediatrician can really relate to the military family, that goes into their decisions. We need to work so the families feel like they are being taken care of.”

The surgeons general also voiced concerns over budget plans to convert more military medical professional jobs into private-sector contracts, saying the cost savings for those moves likely won’t be as dramatic as estimated.

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