The Department of Defense soon may convene a healthcare advisory council to help it adopt a managed-care program for military dependents and retirees.
The department's annual appropriations bill calls for such a panel to improve coordination with the private sector as it implements the CHAMPUS Reform Initiative, its attempt to bring managed care to the Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Uniformed Services.
Convening such a council could help military healthcare officials communicate with the provider community without running afoul of strict procurement rules that limit discussion of contracts.
The House and Senate have negotiated a compromise Pentagon appropriations bill, and the measure was being reviewed by lawmakers late last week.
Charles Partridge, legislative counsel for the National Association for Uniformed Services, said managed-care providers have been reluctant to bid for the CHAMPUS contracts because they had difficulty dealing with the military health system. In 1988, when the military offered a contract to cover 840,000 military dependents and retirees in California and Hawaii, "nobody wanted to do it," he said.
The Defense Department "has traditionally sort of said, `Here's what we're going to do,' and they just do it," Mr. Partridge said. "I think (the advisory council) is going to result in improved contracting."