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WASHINGTON — The Defense Department is weighing an option to save money by closing Tricare customer service centers at stateside military treatment facilities, where contractors provide face-to-face help with questions on topics such as enrollment and claims processing, but stressed that no changes are in the works at Tricare Service Centers overseas.

The potential closure of the centers, which serve hundreds of thousands of troops and their families throughout the United States, is part of a reorganization of DOD health care administration into the new Defense Health Agency, intended to save billions of dollars by increasing efficiency and reducing duplication of services.

But there’s been no final decision to close the U.S. help centers, a defense official said Friday in an email.

“When the Defense Department announced the creation of the Defense Health Agency, elimination of walk-in service at Tricare Service Centers was one of the proposed actions to increase efficiency,” said Pentagon spokeswoman Lt. Col. Cathy Wilkinson. “However, the plan has not been finalized concerning the implementation or timing of such action.”

Regardless of the final decision, Tricare users based overseas won’t be affected, Wilkinson said.

“I can verify that NO changes to Tricare Service Centers overseas are being considered,” she said.

If DOD moves ahead with closing the centers, they’ll be replaced by call-in help lines, according to plan for the reform of the defense health system the Pentagon submitted to Congress in June.

According to the plan, call centers would improve customer service and be far cheaper.

“The Tricare Service Center (TSC) initiative will improve customer service efficiency by eliminating expensive walk-in service centers located at every [Military Treatment Facility] and providing greater access to information through current toll-free call centers and readily available internet resources,” the plan stated. “These options are available 24/7 worldwide and more than 80 percent less expensive per encounter compared to the TSCs.”

The military’s consideration of cutting the service centers was first reported early Friday on the website MilitaryOneClick. Twitter: @ChrisCarroll_


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