NU Online News Service, March 24, 2003, 5:15 p.m. EST – Officials at the U.S. General Accounting Office say the U.S. military is trying to do a better job of educating reservists about the health benefits available to their families.
When the military calls reservists to active duty, dependents can sign up for a free health insurance program called TRICARE.
TRICARE covers the complete cost of care at military health care facilities.
Members who are willing to shoulder the cost of co-payments and deductibles can use TRICARE to cover care from doctors and hospitals in TRICARE’s civilian provider network, and from out-of-network civilian providers who are willing to accept TRICARE rates.
The organizations that administer TRICARE are large, well-known private-sector managed care companies, such as Sierra Health Services Inc., Las Vegas, Nev.
But Derek Stewart, the GAO director who assesses defense capabilities and management, testified at a recent hearing of the House Total Force Subcommittee that the relatives of many activated reservists avoid using the TRICARE system.
Even though TRICARE is free, “many reserve family members elect to maintain their civilian health care insurance during mobilizations,” Stewart said at the hearing, according to a written version of his remarks.
In 2000, for example, the U.S. Department of Defense surveyed families of activated reservists.