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Military and Managed Care Come Together

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LT Jared Rutberg says he believes
FORT BRAGG — Health Care in the military is about to undergo a radical change. For the first time, military personnel will be able to visit civilian doctors. Some people are not happy about the new plan. They say Uncle Sam betrayed them.

Ft Bragg soldiers, their families and military retirees are trying to learn the ins and outs of their new health care system. To keep rising health care costs in control, the military has become partners with TRICARE, a civilian managed care contractor.

"Since 1987 about 35% of the military hospitals have closed," says MAJ John Collins, Chief of Managed Care, "yet we're still required to take care of a large beneficiary population to include active duty family members and retirees."

Under the new health care system, active duty family members and retirees have three choices-- one is designed for patients who prefer military health care, and two for patients who want civilian care.

Collins says if subscribers want guaranteed access in a timely manner at a military treatment facility, they are encouraged to enroll in TRICARE Prime.

"I kind of like it because I think it gives my wife more options with her health care as opposed to just going to the TMC," explains LT Jared Rutberg. "It gives her some good choices."

Making the right enrollment choice is extremely important. Once you choose, you can't switch for a year. And if you want to see a civilian doctor who is not a network provider, you'll pay a hefty price.

"You'll incur a point of service charge which is 50% of the bill and a $300 deductible," Collins says.

Some retirees are not happy about the new plan. They now have to pay a yearly fee of $230 a person or $460 for a family. When Army Retiree David Inglis signed up, he was told if he served 20 years, he and his wife would be taken care of medically for the rest of their lives. He now believes that was a lie.

"Why Uncle Sam reneged, why he didn't grandfather it, why somebody else hasn't done anything about it..." Inglis debates. "It makes retirees like me very bitter."

If you haven't signed up, don't panic. You still have health coverage, but you will be low on the priority list. The new health care system goes into effect today.

For more information on the military's new health care system, call TRICARE at1-800-931-9501.

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John McDonnell, Reporter
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