Military healthcare beneficiaries who join managed-care plans would gain easier access to military treatment facilities under the Department of Defense budget authorization bill Congress has sent to President Clinton.
The provision is part of an effort by the military to steer more of its beneficiaries into managed-care plans to control costs.
The bill would give military hospitals the authority to give preferential access treatment to managed-care enrollees, although they could not deny access to beneficiaries who do not enroll.
The bill also would strengthen the Defense Department's ability to collect payment from those health plans when enrollees seek treatment at military facilities. In addition, for Medicare-eligible military beneficiaries, it would set a managed-care enrollment fee that is the same or lower than non-Medicare-eligible beneficiaries.
"Congress has taken several steps that will help implement managed care," said Dorsey Chescavage, senior issue specialist with the National Military Family Association.
In an 80-18 vote, the Senate on Sept. 13 approved the $263.8 billion authorization measure. The House passed the bill Aug. 17.
Authorization bills state how much money the government may spend, and appropriations bills actually allocate the money to departments or agencies. More specific details on healthcare spending will be available in the defense appropriations bill, which now is being reconciled in a conference committee.
The Defense Department has sought to control healthcare costs for military dependents and retirees eligible for CHAMPUS, the Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Uniformed Services, by contracting with managed-care plans.
Managed care already covers nearly 1 million CHAMPUS beneficiaries in California, Hawaii, Louisiana and Texas, and recently extended its reach by awarding a contract to cover 250,000 beneificiaries in Oregon and Washington state.