The Defense Department has agreed to allow Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals to bid to treat military beneficiaries covered by new managed-care contracts.
VA hospitals would be eligible to join the Tricare networks administered by regional managed-care contractors and bill the Civilian Health and Military Program of the Uniformed Services, or CHAMPUS, for care provided to military family members and retirees.
VA hospitals would be subject to the same cost, access and quality requirements as private providers and would not be treated automatically as Tricare providers.
The agreement signed last week by Kenneth Kizer, M.D., the VA's undersecretary for health, and Stephen Joseph, M.D., assistant secretary of defense for health affairs, opens a new chapter in resource sharing.
Until now, only the VA hospital in Asheville, N.C., has received CHAMPUS reimbursement for treating military beneficiaries. The new agreement, however, could take such arrangements nationwide as the Pentagon continues to implement Tricare contracts between now and May 1997.
While acknowledging that the agreement would allow beneficiaries the choice of going to a nearby VA hospital if they wish, Dorsey Chescavage, healthcare specialist with the National Military Family Association, said the Defense Department should seek to privatize military care, rather than contracting with other government providers.
"It just seems to me to be going against the trend of going to the private sector," she said.