Editor’s note: This article by Patricia Kime originally appeared on Military.com, a leading source of news for the military and veteran community.
New Tricare contracts are now slated to start at the beginning of next year, and beneficiaries should see improvements in provider network flexibility and choice; broader access to telehealth; faster response times for calls; and easier transfers of specialty care during permanent change of station moves, defense officials said.
The new program is expected to begin Jan. 1, 2025, and the companies awarded the contracts to manage Tricare over the next nine years, as well as the Defense Department, are now preparing for the transition, according to the Defense Health Agency.
Under the new contracts, the Tricare West Region, which currently serves nearly 2.8 million beneficiaries, will be managed by TriWest Healthcare Alliance. That region covering the western U.S. also will expand by 1.5 million beneficiaries with the addition of six states that are currently in the Tricare East Region: Arkansas, Illinois, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Texas and Wisconsin.
Humana will remain as the health benefits management company in the Tricare East Region, covering the eastern half of the U.S., overseeing health services for more than 5 million beneficiaries under a contract worth up to $70.8 billion over nine years.
The changes in the new contracts include "innovations that will drive improvements in military readiness, health care delivery, clinical quality, patient safety, beneficiary access to health care and beneficiary experience," Defense Health Agency spokesman Peter Graves said in an email to Military.com.
The contracts, held by Humana Government Business in the East Region and TriWest in the West, include changes aimed at improving health care and services "while containing costs for the department," Graves said.
With the legal battle ended over the award of the Tricare West Region management contract to TriWest Healthcare Alliance, the Defense Health Agency has started the transition to the new contracts, he said.
According to Graves, defense officials held transition meetings with TriWest and Humana in January.
A U.S. Court of Federal Claims judge ruled Jan. 31 in favor of TriWest in a lawsuit filed by Health Net Federal Services, the current regional manager for Tricare West, in a dispute over the award of the next-generation contract, worth more than $65 billion over nine years.
Until the turnover on Jan. 1, Health Net Federal Services and Humana will manage Tricare in their respective regions.
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"We remain dedicated to providing exceptional health care to the people we proudly serve through the end of our current contract," Health Net President and CEO Kathleen Redd said in a statement last week.
The contract decisions do not affect most Medicare-eligible Tricare beneficiaries who utilize Tricare for Life, managed by WPS Military and Veterans Health.
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