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A guide to understanding TRICARE

MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kan. -- TRICARE is an extensive health benefits plan for military members, their families, and retirees. Depending on your status and location, there are many different types of TRICARE plans available.

“Healthcare is a very personal decision,” said Col. Thomas Williford, 22nd Medical Group commander. “Therefore, the best approach for making health decisions is to combine the most reliable medical information with your personal values” stated Col. Thomas Williford, 22nd Medical Group commander. Your beliefs, fears, experiences and lifestyle can all play a role in helping you select a health plan and primary care manager that is right for you and your family.”

During the annual open season period patients can enroll in a health plan for the next year. The next open enrollment starts Nov. 12, 2018, and ends Dec. 10, 2018.

“Our managed care support partner, Health Net Federal Services, is sending reminders to beneficiaries of important options for selecting TRICARE plans,” said Williford.

For TRICARE plan year 2019, beneficiaries enrolled in TRICARE Prime or TRICARE Select plans will only be able to switch or make changes to existing plans during the open enrollment season or with a qualifying life event, such as permanent change of station, retiring, marriage, divorce, birth, or sending a child off to college. As a reminder, if you are happy with your current TRICARE health care plan, you do not have to take any action; you will continue to be enrolled in your current plan.

In the beginning of 2018, Congress approved a myriad of TRICARE plans available to military families. In addition to the plan and referral option changes, there were also changes to the cost of plans and co-pays for ancillary services, such as pharmacy.

“The 22nd MDG, your Tanker Medics, use continuous process improvement (CPI) to enhance the implementation of these plans and continually strive to provide you the best healthcare possible,” said Col Williford. “As your primary care manager, we are committed to providing safe, efficient, and timely care to our enrolled beneficiaries. In some instances, this means we are coordinating your care with our downtown partners via Health Net, not actually providing it in the base clinic.”

The 22nd MDG’s Referral Management Center provides on-site support to you for off-base referrals, according to Williford. As part of the greater TRICARE network in the Wichita area, we are also committed to providing support services as a convenient and cost-effective option within the myriad of TRICARE health plan options. The Referral Management Center can be contacted at 318-759-4931.

Williford believes healthcare starts with listening to patients.

“Listening is an art that health professionals and medical organizations strive to accomplish every day with every patient,” he shared. “The Tanker Medics are listening to our patients.” Some recent examples of how the 22 MDG is acting on the feedback they have received from their patients includes:

- To make medication safety paramount while working within existing technology limitations, Maj. Pedro Colon, 22nd MDG senior pharmacist, led a CPI on the pharmacy refill process. “During the early part of October, the pharmacy took steps to reduce wait times,” said Williford. “We believe you can expect significantly reduced time with the patient call-in refill process.”

- In an effort to be conveniently available, the 22 MDG reviewed all of its closures, such as training and family days. The clinic has reduced its number of full-clinic closures each month by finding innovative ways to meet readiness and clinical currency training.

- While there are several options for patients to receive their annual flu shots, the clinic participated in many on-base community events to make obtaining the flu shot more convenient for families, according to Williford.

Looking toward the future, the 22nd MDG is making investments into technologies that will speed up the processing of new prescriptions from on-base and off-base providers and those that will provide notifications for when a medication is ready for pick-up and for impacts on medical operations, according to Williford. “We are also reviewing staffing levels and patient enrollments to ensure the optimal patient-to-provider ratio to deliver personable care,” he said.

For beneficiaries needing assistance with their TRICARE plans and the availability of care, the 22 MDG has two TRICARE beneficiary advisors, Paula Hinkle and Nicole Lee. These advisors can be reached Monday through Friday at 316-759-5097/5944 during normal operating hours, 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

“While we are making tangible improvements in access and wait times, the most challenging aspect of healthcare delivery is communicating with our diverse patient population,” said Williford. “The 22nd MDG has significantly increased communications on social media as well as in other various forums regarding healthcare services and options. Even though we have multiple categories of patients—Active Duty, retirees and their family members—our goal with is always the same: to prove convenient, courteous and accessible primary care.”

While the most common way to provide feedback is through the Department of Defense Joint Outpatient Experience Survey, which is mailed to patients following each appointment, you can also provide feedback on the comment cards located throughout the 22nd MDG.

“Myself and the whole Tanker Medic Team want you to know that we encourage and welcome feedback at any time.”