February 5, 2015
As it considers major reforms, Congress continues to examine all components of military health care. On Feb. 3, House lawmakers held a hearing on military treatment facilities (MTF).
MOAA raised the issue of balancing mission readiness and beneficiary access in December testimony to Congress, and this issue was a key question for lawmakers Wednesday.
Military beneficiaries' continuity of care is disrupted when their primary care doctors or nurse practitioners deploy - especially if it is sudden.
Testifying on behalf of the MTFs were hospital commanders of four facilities representing the Army, Navy and Air Force.
The commanders said balancing resources and training for a variety of missions, good communication with the communities they serve, and placing the right type of providers based on beneficiary demand are all essential for success.
When questioned about beneficiary access, Naval Hospital Camp Lejeune Commander Capt. Rick Freeman, USN, said different generations of beneficiaries prefer to experience access in different ways. Some prefer access through electronic means, while others favor face-to-face communication.
Mental health care transition from active duty into the VA system continues to be a challenge. From a national perspective, there are not enough mental health providers to meet the demand in many areas.
Witnesses acknowledged MTF access to care can and should be improved, but cited progress. Madigan Army Medical Center Commander Col. Mike Place, USA, emphasized that the 98 percent patient survival rate from the battlefield has been successfully achieved through the superior training of military medical personnel - and most of that training is done in the MTF.
Through MOAA's and other surveys, the beneficiary access problem has consistently been centered in MTFs. MOAA's perspective is that fixing the system's problems will necessarily entail finding ways to increase beneficiary appointments in these facilities.
Maintaining readiness is essential, but so is delivering timely, quality care to all military beneficiaries.
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