MOAA Survey: TRICARE Beneficiaries Are Increasingly Dissatisfied

MOAA Survey: TRICARE Beneficiaries Are Increasingly Dissatisfied
About the Author

Beasley retired from the U.S. Navy in 2009 after serving 30 years. As a career Navy Nurse Corps officer, she served in a wide variety of staff and leadership positions within the Navy and DoD. She has had assignments serving in large and small military treatment facilities, both stateside and abroad. Her clinical specialties have been in the surgical intensive care and surgical services as well as the ambulatory care areas. Her administrative emphasis has been in the managed care arena, TRICARE operations, and health care operational planning.

Beasley's leadership assignments include chief of staff of Naval Healthcare New England; director of Healthcare Operations at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.; chief of staff for the Commanding General for the Multi-Service Market Area at Walter Reed Army Medical Center; and director of planning and support for the Navy Surgeon General.

Beasley is a native of St. Louis. She received her Bachelor of Science in nursing from the University of Tulsa in Oklahoma and a Master of Science in nursing and Master of Science in business administration from Boston College in Chestnut Hill, Mass. She is a Fellow in the American College of Healthcare Executives. She joined MOAA in September 2009.

 

 

The results for MOAA's latest TRICARE survey confirm what many of us have been suspecting: Beneficiaries aren't happy.

Beneficiaries' overall satisfaction with the TRICARE program has decreased, according to the survey. Compared to survey results from December 2017, the new data shows increasing dissatisfaction across all categories, including provider choice, access to providers, and especially among medication costs. Over 8,500 TRICARE beneficiaries responded to the most recent survey.

[Related: 17,000 MOAA Members Rallied Together to Prevent TRICARE Fee Increases]

Survey respondents indicated concerns regarding the costs of their health care. The results revealed some beneficiary categories are more likely than others to alter their health care decisions based upon increased costs.

Beneficiaries who identified themselves as spouses, enlisted, and either using TRICARE Prime or Select were more likely than all others to cancel or postpone treatment out of cost concerns. TRICARE for Life respondents continue to show the greatest overall satisfaction with their health care.

The cost shares can be staggering. Most people are healthy, and they are not aware of these kinds of costs. They don't react to the increases that have occurred. Only when they need medical attention do most beneficiaries understand the importance and size of the increases and new fees.

Here are the main takeaways and key stats from the survey:

• On the positive side, 80 percent of TRICARE for Life beneficiaries were either very satisfied or mostly satisfied. But conversely, only 50 percent of those using TRICARE Select were very or mostly satisfied, and 28 percent were very to mostly dissatisfied.

• Trends in satisfaction with the cost of medications have decreased. Previously 42 percent were very satisfied with the cost of their medication. The new data shows only 28 percent remain very satisfied. A full 22 percent are either very or mostly dissatisfied.

• Over 50 percent of beneficiaries responded that they were somewhat to very concerned about being able to afford their medications. This is a dramatic shift from previous responses when beneficiaries were largely unconcerned about affording their prescriptions.

• When asked how frequently beneficiaries canceled or postponed medical appointments in the past year out of cost concerns, 85 percent indicated they had never done so - down from 94 percent previously.  Of those who had, 10 percent said they had done so 1 or 2 times, 3 percent 3 or 4 times, and 2 percent indicated they had 5 or more times.

• Specialty appointments were the most frequently canceled or postponed appointment type as reported by 62 percent of those who had done it. Physical therapy and mental health appointments were the most reported sub-types.

• Most beneficiaries, 76 percent, responded that they made no changes to their prescriptions during the past year.

However, 17 percent shifted from retail to home delivery, and 8 percent shifted from home delivery to the military treatment facility.

A sampling of comments:

“After switching most of my medications to mail order, I am having to switch them to a base pharmacy 68 miles away to save money. Also, had three meds they could not fill that I had been getting for years.”

“Because the copays went from $12 to $30, it is hard for me to afford therapies for my 4-year-old son. He is supposed to receive speech therapy twice a week and occupational therapy once a week. Under the old way it, was $36 every week. Now I am paying $90 every week. We only do speech and occupational once a week because it has put a financial strain on us. It is hard to provide the adequate care for my son who has special needs that should be met.”

“You do not improve a service, medical or otherwise by charging a higher price. Charging more and doubling the fees in [TRICARE]  Prime or TRICARE Select doesn't make the medical plan any better. It's like selling a $20,000 car for $30,000. It is the same car, not any better parts or options. Gave it a new name and charge more for it. This does not improve the service or the car just because you charge more for the service. Congress ups the copays for drugs, ups enrollment fees, doctor copays, but they don't seem to want to improve the product."

It is becoming increasingly clear, most beneficiaries' view their TRICARE benefit as one for which they are paying more and receiving less. Whether it is for narrower provider networks, higher costs for medications, and much greater copayments for medical appointments - beneficiaries are experiencing an erosion to their earned health care benefit.   

The Military Officers Association of America intends to continue to accurately portray the effects of these policies on beneficiaries, and we will fight any new disproportionate cost shares.