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: www.mcrmc.gov

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 www.mcrmc.gov 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.

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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

FY 2015 DOD Budget Request

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.

“Yesterday the Department of Defense proposed a budget that would combine several TRICARE plans, including TRICARE Prime, into a new Consolidated Health Plan.  We look forward to learning the details of the plan in the coming weeks and to working in partnership with the Department of Defense as it moves to shape the future of the Defense Health System.  Although on the surface it would seem that efficiencies could be gained from this proposal, we have several significant concerns, including potentially higher out of pocket expenses for beneficiaries, less focus on wellness and preventive medicine, and reduced access to care.  The US Family Health Plans have provided cost effective and accessible high quality health care and continuity of care for more than 30 years to military families, and we want to continue to serve in the years ahead.”

“Although DOD’s goal of recapturing patients at its military treatment facilities is laudable, unfortunately deployments and other systemic limitations are likely to reduce the prospects for success of this effort,” said David Howes.  “We encourage the Department to work collaboratively with industry on a plan that could work for everyone in controlling costs while beneficiaries receive high quality care.”

“Service members and their families already make tremendous sacrifices for our country,” noted Schweiter.  “We owe it to them to do everything we can to ensure they continue to receive the best health care the Defense Health System can provide. I look forward to working with Congress and officials in the Pentagon to make sure the TRICARE benefit is not degraded,” Schweiter said.

About the US Family Health Plan

The US Family Health Plan (www.usfhp.com) is among the health care choices for eligible beneficiaries of the Department of Defense’s TRICARE Prime program. Health care is provided to active-duty family members, including activated National Guard and Reserve family members, and retirees and their family members. Care is provided through large, local civilian health care networks of primary care physicians, hospitals and affiliated specialists. Patients choose a primary physician who provides and coordinates care and referrals to specialists and hospitals. The US Family Health Plan Alliance is the association that represents the collective interests of the regional USFHP networks in interactions with Congress, the Department of Defense, and the private sector.

Military Beneficiaries Rate Satisfaction with US Family Health Plan in 99th Percentile

ARLINGTON, Va. (October 31, 2013) – Amid the ongoing national conversation regarding access to high-quality, affordable health care, military family members have validated that they are highly satisfied with the Department of Defense-sponsored health care option known as the US Family Health Plan (usfhp.com). The plan, for eligible military beneficiaries in six regions of the United States, has achieved a 2013 overall member satisfaction rating of 92.5 percent, far surpassing the satisfaction rates of other managed care plans for 19 consecutive years.

The national benchmark for member satisfaction with their health plan is 65.2 percent, as calculated by The Myers Group (of Duluth, Ga.) – a National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) certified survey vendor – and based on 203 Commercial Audit Survey results which were submitted to the NCQA in 2013. Compared with those 203 health plans, the US Family Health Plan is in the 99th percentile for overall member satisfaction. Customer service and the ability to get needed care have been substantiated as among the key drivers of the US Family Health Plan’s consistently high member satisfaction rating.

“Our large, local health care networks of primary care physicians, hospitals and affiliated specialists are leading the way with DoD in providing patient-centered care to military family members,” said David Howes, chair of the board of the US Family Health Plan Alliance, which represents the collective interests of the plan’s regional networks in interactions with Congress, DoD and the private sector. “Our initiatives continue to align well with DoD’s Quadruple Aim Strategy to enhance family readiness, support population health, create positive care experiences, and responsibly manage health care costs.”

Henry J. “Jim” Schweiter, chief executive officer of the US Family Health Plan Alliance, said, “As a former active-duty officer and current dependent, I can assure you that we remain committed to facilitating the best health care that the Defense Health Agency can provide. Current budget pressures notwithstanding, we must ensure that military family members receive the top-notch health care that they deserve.”

The US Family Health Plan, a TRICARE Prime option, serves active-duty family members, including activated National Guard and Reserve family members, and retirees and their family members. The local health care networks through which members receive care include Brighton Marine Health Center (serving Massachusetts, Rhode Island and northern Connecticut), CHRISTUS Health (serving southeast Texas and southwest Louisiana), Johns Hopkins Medicine (serving Maryland, Washington D.C. and parts of Pennsylvania, Virginia, Delaware and West Virginia), Martin’s Point Health Care (serving Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, upstate and western New York, and the northern tier of Pennsylvania), Pacific Medical Centers (PacMed Clinics, serving the Puget Sound area of Washington State), and St. Vincent Catholic Medical Centers (serving New York City, Long Island, southern Connecticut, New Jersey, and Philadelphia and area suburbs).

The independent assessment of 5,106 US Family Health Plan members was conducted by The Myers Group utilizing the most widely used set of metrics in the managed care industry, the Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (CAHPS®) 5.0H Survey, to measure performance on key dimensions of care and service.

CAHPS® is a registered trademark of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ).