Led by expansion of its Tricare managed-care contracts across the country, the Defense Department is projecting a nearly 5% decrease in its overall healthcare budget for fiscal 1997.The military expects to nearly halve its spending -to $1.3 billion-on the indemnity-style insurance coverage for military retirees and dependents under the Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Uniformed Services, or CHAMPUS.Meanwhile, the Defense Department health program ex pects to increase its spending on Tricare managed-care contracts by 73%, to $2.2 billion, as it expands Tricare nationwide.By the end of fiscal 1997, the department expects to cover most of the 5.9 million military family members a nd retirees eligible for CHAMPUS under six regional Tricare managed-care contracts.As that expansion continues, the Defense Department projects a reduction of combined CHAMPUS indemnity and managed-care spending to $3.5 billion in fiscal 1997 from $3.6 billion in fiscal 1996.As bases continue to close, the Pentagon also expects to reduce spending for military treatment facilities by 9.4%, to less than $3.3 billion, and to cut spending for care at private-sector facilities by 1.7%, to $447.6 million.In all, the Defense Department healthcare budget will shrink by $482.2 million in fiscal 1997 to less than $9.4 billion.Groups representing military retirees and family members contend the Pentagon is underfunding the Defense Department healthcare program by more than $600 million and say the Clinton administration is playing budget politics."It appears what they're doing is shorting the medical budget in the hopes that Congress will (increase it)," said Charles Partridge, legislative counsel for the National Association for Uniformed Services. "They're using military people as pawns."
THE WEEK IN HEALTHCARE;MILITARY HEALTHCARE;TRICARE SHRINKING MILITARY HEALTH BUDGET
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