Mitchel Field Family Health Center promotes awareness with Ribbon-Cutting Ceremony

By MC2(AW/SW) Kristina Young

This story appeared in The Dolphin on Aug. 28, 2014

Photo by MC2(AW/SW) Kristina Young LONG ISLAND, NY

LONG ISLAND, NY. – Physicians, staff, and patrons of the Mitchel Field Family Health Center (MFFHC) celebrated their new branding and patron awareness campaign with a ribbon-cutting ceremony held at the medical center in Garden City, Long Island, NY, Aug. 12.

A former U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force base, Mitchel Field still maintains military public-private venture (PPV) housing, a commissary, an exchange, and a contracted health care facility to support military families and activities in the area.

Mitchel Field DoD activities are aligned under Naval Submarine Base New London (SUBASE) in Groton, Conn., for facility and infrastructure support and management.

MFFHC recently underwent renovations to improve aesthetics as well as the center’s atmosphere for their more than 1,200 patients of the military community. New paint, new carpeting, and other refurbishments were capped off with dramatic new outdoor signage including eleven 8 ft. by 8 ft. photographs of military members, family members, and military equipment.

“I look at these pictures and it reminds me of the dedication and the sacrifices that all of our military members have made, along with the sacrifices of their families,” said Jeffrey Bloom, Executive Director and Senior Vice President of U.S. Family Health Plan which directs the clinic’s operations. “I look at these pictures and I’m proud to be a part of this plan. I’m proud to be providing the service that we have been providing. And, I’m proud of all of you that’ve patronized this site for the last 24 years.”

The new signs reflect a branding effort to highlight the center’s service to its military patrons and its existence to the local community.

“It absolutely feels great to have the community come out to celebrate with us as we are here because of them; if it wasn’t for the military community around us, we wouldn’t be here,” said Norma Velez, lead clerk with MFFHC for more than 24 years. “We always try to make this center feel like home for our patients and they just love it.”

According to Velez, before the new branding signs were placed around the outside of the building, patients would have a hard time locating the center.

“When the idea of putting signs around the building came up, we all thought it would help our patients and people in the community find us easier,” said Velez. “Our building is so close to the [Mitchel Field] commissary, yet people were having a hard time trying to locate which building we were in exactly. The beautiful pictures on the signs definitely show everyone who we are and who we serve.”

The health center contracted with local Rockville Centre, Long Island, PRI Communications Inc. to develop the signs.

“They told me that they would like to make the building more beautiful,” said Angelo Puleo, president of PRI Communications Inc. “I felt it was a privilege and an honor to do it for military people who support all of us throughout our lifetimes. I made sure that we picked the right pictures; we diversified; and, had proper representation of military members. I’ve been working with [MFFHC] for more than eight years…and I appreciated the opportunity to be a part of the new brand.”

Some 50 health center patrons, staff, and U.S. Family Health Plan leadership celebrated the ribbon cutting with music, food, and reflections about the center’s history and impact.

“I love this place, I love my veterans and my active-duty service members; just being able to be there for them is where my passion for this place comes from,” said Joyce Arciuolo, nursing director at MFFHC.

MFFHC opened in its current location in October 1990; prior to that, staff worked out of three different apartment buildings in nearby Mitchel Manor.

“I began as a clerk in June 1989, and Marvin Mullens, who was in charge, decided to move us out of the apartments and into this building,” said Velez. “This building was utilized for multipurpose use before we took over. It wasn’t nearly as pleasant as it is today. The renovations and work that was put into it really shine and make this place like home.”

Dr. John Burkhart, Medical Director of U.S. Family Health Plan, and a retired Navy Capt. who once worked as medical administrator at SUBASE’s clinic, oversees the MFFHC staff. He praised patients and caregivers alike for the sense of home and family with which they imbue the facility.

Health center patrons echoed the sentiment.

“The center is really scrumptious and full of personality and history. And the medical care, all top-notch doctors; I can’t complain about any doctor that I’ve ever [received],” said MFFHC patient and retired Marine First Sgt. Michael Puglia, who served in the corps for 32 years. “The doctors here, whether they know you or not, are very outstanding, professionals, and always welcome you as a patient. The staff, when I come in there, they’re fabulous. They help me with any problem I [have], if I have a problem; or, if I don’t have a problem, I still get help. [MFFHC] is second to none.”

For more information about the DoD services and activities located at Mitchel Field, visit:

The US Family Health Plan Remembers 9-11

The US Family Health Plan Alliance and its member organizations are deeply grateful for the service and sacrifice of our uniformed services members and their families.

Thirteen years ago today marked the beginning of our nation’s longest war—the still ongoing war against terrorism. The nearly 3 million service members who have deployed in support of war operations – many of them multiple times — volunteered to serve our country and have served with great distinction, often in very difficult conditions overseas. Each of them has family members who have sacrificed in many different ways. They have assumed extra duties at home, taken extra jobs, assumed family burdens that would ordinarily be shared, and have worked hard to ensure a stable home and productive environment while the military member is away supporting the mission.

As we remember the 2,977 people who perished at the World Trade Center towers, the Pentagon and Shanksville, Pa., we are reminded of the continued selfless commitment and patriotism of all of our service members and their families. The US Family Health Plan Alliance and members are especially proud to collaborate with the National Military Family Association in honoring the memory of those who perished on 9-11, as well as the service members and families of our uniformed services who sacrifice every day for our great country. A brief tribute can be seen below.

Homes for Military Veterans

Two US Family Health Plans are helping to build homes for military veterans. In Texas, CHRISTUS Health and the US Family Health Plan Alliance helped fund a home for a retired wounded warrior. In Massachusetts, Brighton Marine Health Center, Inc., is in the early stages of a planned multi-family complex that will provide affordable rental units to veterans and their families.

Brighton Clinic Looks to Build Housing for Veterans
Wounded warrior welcomed to new Cypress-area home

What Parts of Your Compensation Package Do You Value the Most?

An independent, congressionally-appointed commission tasked with recommending ways to modernize military pay, benefits and retirement seeks input from current and retired service members, dependents, and other members of the public.

The Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission over the next few months will survey active duty, National Guard and Reserve service members, as well as military retirees. The Commission wants to know which parts of their package of compensation benefits they value the most. But the Commission isn’t just relying on the survey. It is also encouraging other military members, retirees, dependents, the general public and other interested parties to share their opinions with the Commission. Those opinions can be submitted either online through the Commission’s website or by writing to the Commission directly. The Commission’s website address is:

The Commission is tasked with reviewing the full range of military compensation and retirement policies and making recommendations to Congress about which compensation benefits and policies should be reformed and how. Compensation benefits under review by the Commission include all active duty, reserve and retired pay and allowances, health care benefits and policies, and quality of life programs and activities such as commissary and exchange benefits and nonappropriated fund activities. The Commission’s recommendations are supposed to help ensure the country can maintain its all-volunteer force in a fiscally sustainable way, whether the nation is at peace, or at war. The Commission’s final report will be provided to Congress and the President by February 1, 2015.

The commission’s recommendations could significantly impact the array of future military compensation benefits, including health care benefits. Those interested in the US Family Health Plan program may wish to register their views about important compensation benefits like health care by contacting the Commission at or by writing to:

The Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission
Post Office Box 13170
Arlington, Virginia 22209

Nurturing the Roots of Healthful Eating Habits

Nurturing the Roots of Healthful Eating Habits

Nurturing the Roots of Healthful Eating Habits

Children from the Youth Center at Hanscom Air Force Base, MA, and volunteers from the US Family Health Plan teamed up to plant a community vegetable garden at the Youth Center on May 28. The children tend the garden, and are permitted to harvest the vegetables for use at their homes, or for food preparation lessons at the Youth Center. This is the fourth year that the US Family Health Plan operated by Brighton Marine Health Center has sponsored the event and helped plant the garden. Brighton Marine Health Center is one of six US Family Health Plans that provide care to military families under Defense Department contracts.

Seven Seals Boss Lift eventSeven Seals Boss Lift event

Seven Seals Boss Lift event

Jeffrey Bloom, executive director, Saint Vincent Catholic Medical Centers, participated in the New Jersey Committee for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve’s annual Seven Seals Boss Lift event at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst. The event, held May 14 -15, provides civilian employers an up-close view of their employees’ military service. Saint Vincent Catholic Medical Centers is one of six US Family Health Plans that provide health care to military families under Defense Department contracts.

House Armed Services Committee Report Acknowledges “important role” of US Family Health Plans

A powerful congressional committee has formally recognized the contributions that the US Family Health Plans (“USFHP”) have made to the health of military families.

In a report accompanying the House version of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2015, the House Armed Services Committee acknowledged the USFHP’s high quality of health care and customer satisfaction.

The congressional committee went one step further and encouraged the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission to consider the US Family Health Plans as the commission formulates its recommendations about how best to shape the future military health benefit.

“On behalf of the US Family Health Plan Alliance and its member plans, we are extremely gratified that the House Armed Services Committee has formally recognized the value of the US Family Health Plan program to the beneficiaries and the Military Health System,” said David Howes, President and Chief Executive Officer of Martin’s Point Health Care.  “We are equally pleased that the Committee has encouraged the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission to evaluate the US Family Health Plan program as it deliberates about the best way to improve the Military Health System,” said Howes.

The Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission was established by Congress in the Fiscal Year 2013 National Defense Authorization Act. Its mission is to review military pay and benefits, and recommend how to modernize the systems so that the United States can maintain a strong, all-volunteer force, in both peacetime and wartime, and the systems are fiscally sustainable. The commission has been soliciting information from military members, retirees and others. It will submit its recommendations to the President next year.

In the House Armed Services Committee report on the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2015 (H.R. 4435), the committee wrote:

“The committee is aware of the important role of the US Family Health Plans in providing quality health care, which consistently exceeds customer satisfaction expectations, to military beneficiaries. The committee notes that the Department of Defense strives to provide quality health care to its beneficiary population, which has grown significantly over the last decade. Given the budget challenges the Department is facing, it is important that all segments of the military health system make every effort to ensure that they are providing the most cost-effective quality services available. The committee recognizes the contributions provided by the US Family Health Plans to the health of service members and their families, particularly retirees. Therefore, the committee encourages the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission to address the role of the US Family Health Plan during deliberations regarding the future military health benefit.”

The US Family Health Plans provide high quality, managed care that utilizes the patient-centered medical home model. The plans place a strong focus on wellness and prevention, and also offer a full-range of specialty care. US Family Health Plans’ patient satisfaction rates are the highest in TRICARE, and patient satisfaction rates are far higher than the national average of commercial plans. In 2013, the plans achieved an overall patient satisfaction rating of 92.5 percent.

Heroes of Military Medicine Awards dinner

USFHP executives and guests, and senior military leaders discuss health care issues at the annual Heroes of Military Medicine Awards dinner, presented by the Center for Public-Private Partnerships of the Henry M. Jackson Foundation for the Advancement of Military Medicine, Inc.

Heroes of Military Medicine Awards dinner

Left to right: Major General James K. Gilman, M.D., USA (Ret.), executive director, Johns Hopkins Military & Veterans Health Institute; Major General Nadja Y. West, M.D., USA, Joint Staff Surgeon; David Howes, M.D., president and chief executive officer, Martin’s Point Health Care, and chair, US Family Health Plan Alliance board of directors; Jeffrey Bloom, executive director, Saint Vincent Catholic Medical Centers.

The Pentagon lost the first battle in its effort to replace the current TRICARE system with a single consolidated health plan.

The Pentagon lost the first battle in its effort to replace the current TRICARE system with a single consolidated health plan.

The Military Personnel Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee this week presented its version of the Fiscal Year 2015 National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 4435). In doing so, the subcommittee rejected DoD’s plans “that would have increased out-of-pocket costs for military families, including the elimination of most TRICARE plans … ”

This is only a first step in a lengthy, fluid process. The proposed defense authorization act is subject to numerous changes in Congress that will take place over the coming months.

Click here to

Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Proposed Changes to TRICARE In the Budget Request for Fiscal Year 2015

Please click on a question below to display the answer.  Please click here to read the statement from US Family Health Plan Alliance Chief Executive Officer Henry J. “Jim” Schweiter, and David Howes, President and Chief Executive Officer of Martin’s Point Health Care and chairman of the Alliance Board of Directors, regarding the recently released fiscal year 2015 defense budget request, as it relates to military health care.

What are the changes to TRICARE being proposed to Congress by the Department of Defense (DoD)?

DoD is proposing to consolidate the various TRICARE options—TRICARE Prime, Extra, Standard, and other TRICARE Plans—into one consolidated plan, and to increase several beneficiary costs. Key changes would include:

  • Increased Cost Shares: Cost shares will depend on beneficiary category (excluding active duty) and care setting. Cost shares would be the lowest in MTFs, higher in the network, and highest out of network.
  • Increased Participation Fee (i.e., Enrollment Fee): Retirees (not medically retired), their families, and survivors of retirees (except survivors of those who died on active duty) would pay an increased annual participation fee or forfeit coverage for the plan year.
  • Open Season Enrollment: Participants proposed consolidated plan would be required to enroll for a 1-year period of coverage or lose the opportunity for TRICARE coverage.
  • Elimination of Referrals: Beneficiaries would no longer need to obtain authorizations when seeking civilian care; but costs to the beneficiary would be determined by the network status of the provider(s) they see.
  • Deductibles: The proposed combined TRICARE plan would feature deductibles that would need to be met by the beneficiary before cost-sharing takes effect. Currently, TRICARE Standard and TRICARE Extra feature deductibles, but TRICARE Prime and US Family Health Plan do not.
  • Catastrophic Cap:  The Catastrophic Cap, which is the annual, per-family limit on out-of-pocket expenses, would increase slightly from the current amount. However, the participation/enrollment fee would no longer count towards the cap.
  • Increase co-pays for pharmaceuticals: The proposed changes to beneficiaries’ pharmacy costs would be phased-in over a 10-year period, with some costs more than doubling over that period of time.

Have these proposed changes been made law?

No. Congress would first need to approve these proposed changes before they could take effect.

Is Congress likely to go along with DoD’s proposed changes?

No one has a crystal ball, but conventional wisdom suggests that it is unlikely Congress would adopt these changes during an election year. Nevertheless, you may wish to contact your elected representatives to understand their position on the proposal and to convey any concerns you may have.

Why is DoD proposing to consolidate the existing TRICARE plans into one plan?

DoD has stated that consolidating the existing plans would simplify TRICARE and save money.  However, we believe that beneficiaries should have a choice and should be able to select a plan that best meets their individual needs, rather than a one-size-fits-all plan.

How would these proposed changes affect US Family Health Plan?

At this point it is unclear how these proposed changes—if enacted—might affect US Family Health Plan, as very few specifics have been provided.  The US Family Health Plan was created in 1993 by congressional statute, and was moved under the TRICARE umbrella in 1997.

Why is DoD proposing to increase costs for TRICARE beneficiaries?

We believe the DoD is trying to reduce their cost to provide the TRICARE benefit.  However, we believe that these costs should not simply be shifted on to beneficiaries.  Furthermore, by eliminating the requirement for coordination of referrals to specialists by a primary care provider, the proposed consolidated plan would have beneficiaries navigating the health system on their own, and would likely lead to a lack of coordination of services among providers and higher health care costs in the long run.

Are these changes being proposed because of the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”)?

No. TRICARE is governed by a separate set of statutes, and is not directly affected by the Affordable Care Act.

What are the proposed changes to the enrollment fees?

The proposal specifies an enrollment fee increase for January 1, 2016. The enrollment fee would increase each year after that tied to that year’s cost of living increase:

Currently, TRICARE beneficiaries enrolled in Part B pay no enrollment fee. The Administration’s proposal would implement an enrollment fee for these beneficiaries beginning in fiscal year 2015. This fee would be a percentage of the sponsor’s retirement pay:

What are the proposed changes to beneficiary outpatient cost-shares in the FY2015 budget request?

These proposed outpatient cost-shares would take effect January 1, 2016:

What are the proposed changes to beneficiary inpatient cost-shares in the FY2015 budget request?

These proposed inpatient cost-shares would take effect January 1, 2016:

What are the proposed changes to pharmacy co-pays in the FY2015 budget request?

The following proposed pharmacy changes in the FY 2015 budget would take effect January 1, 2015 and be phased-in over a 10-year period:

What are the proposed deductibles?

The following proposed deductibles would take effect January 1, 2016:

General Deductible (out-of-network care)

  • E1-E4 active duty family – $150 individual/$300 family
  • E5 and others – $300 individual/$600 family

What are the proposed changes to the catastrophic cap?

The catastrophic cap is the maximum a family would pay out-of-pocket in a given year. The current catastrophic cap is $1,000 per year, per family for active duty families, and $3,000 per year, per family for retirees and their families.  Currently, all out-of-pocket costs are applied to the catastrophic cap, including the enrollment fee.  The Administration proposal would increase slightly the catastrophic cap as of January 1, 2016; however, the enrollment fee would no longer be applied to the catastrophic cap.

Catastrophic Cap (per fiscal year) – Active Duty Family

  • $1,500 network/$2,500 combined
  • $3,000 networks/$5,000 combined