Troops in remote areas need OK before visiting non-Tricare doctors
October 27, 2006
WASHINGTON — Overseas troops stationed far from military hospitals will have to pay out of pocket for routine medical work unless they get an OK from Tricare officials first, under a recent policy change.
The new rule went into effect last week and deals with servicemembers and families enrolled in Tricare’s Global Remote Overseas program, which serves those permanently stationed away from major overseas U.S. facilities in places such as Berlin, Milan, Kuwait and parts of the United Kingdom.
In the past, those troops could visit any local doctor for routine check-ups or specialty health care without charge — even those outside of the Tricare system — because of the lack of locally available military treatment facilities.
Now troops will have to pay a deductible of $300 per individual or $600 per family before Tricare will pick up those medical bills from non-Tricare physicians. But if they get prior approval from health care administrators, Tricare will pick up the whole bill, just like before.
Chris Hober, an analyst for Tricare’s overseas programs, said officials changed that policy to bring it in line with the Tricare Overseas Prime program, which covers most servicemembers and families stationed in foreign countries.
In most cases those patients must use military medical facilities for their health care, or pay themselves for check-ups with doctors outside the military network.
Global Remote patients should already be requesting approval to see those nonmilitary physicians before scheduling appointments, Hober said, but in the past the system had no financial disincentives for those who didn’t.
“Now, there’s a big advantage to contact the calling center and coordinate your plans,” he said. “If they’re bypassing the system, they’ll have to pay for it.”
The change shouldn’t mean much more than an extra phone call for many families, Hober said, since most of those who have Global Remote coverage are already seeing Tricare-approved physicians.
Hober said the rules don’t stop anyone from continuing to see their family physician — even if that doctor doesn’t is outside the Tricare system — but will force families to pay for those visits on their own.
And the new policy does not apply to emergency care; Hober said those situations are covered for all overseas Tricare patients, regardless which physician treats them.
The new policy change also applies to troops enrolled in Tricare’s Puerto Rico Prime program.
For more information on the Global Remote coverage, or for a full list of cities where the remote coverage is offered, visit www.tricare.osd.mil/TGRO.