WASHINGTON — Overseas servicemembers with a serious illness or injury no longer must travel to distant military treatment facilities if closer, quicker medical help is available.

Under changes made to Tricare policies, troops can use local clinics and physicians when the nearest military treatment facilities (MTF) is short-staffed or too far away for quick response, provided they get advance permission.

The new rules apply to troops not covered under the Tricare Global Remote Overseas program, but instead attached to a treatment facility at a military installation.

Tricare spokeswoman Bonnie Powell said the changes involve urgent medical needs, such as sprains, muscle injuries or illnesses that could become hazardous, as opposed to life-threatening emergencies or routine medical visits.

Under current rules, routine appointments still must be handled by military personnel at the nearest MTF. In life-threatening situations, patients are instructed to go to the nearest medical facility regardless of cost.

For the intermediary needs, Powell said, troops within 40 miles of a MTF had been required to go there despite the long travel time.

Now, Tricare will cover visits to local medical facilities instead of the far-away military ones if patients call ahead and clear the visit with military physicians. If they cannot see a patient within 24 hours, or if they decide that more urgent care is needed, Tricare officials will help locate another nearby option, Powell said.

The new rules do not apply to Puerto Rico, because the global overseas program does not operate there, officials said.

Are you eligible?

To see if you’re eligible to visit a local doctor for urgent care needs instead of an MTF, call the regional Tricare Global Remote Overseas alarm center:

Europe: 44-20-8762-8133Singapore: 65-6338-9277Sydney:61-2-9273-2760Latin America: 1-800-834-5514

Source: Tricare

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