Seven private-sector providers will continue to serve military retirees and dependents of active-duty personnel indefinitely under a defense spending bill facing a House vote last week.
The Uniformed Services Treatment Facilities health plan would be offered as an option within the Tricare military managed-care program in the seven areas covered by the USTFs. The USTF health plan now covers 120,000 military beneficiaries and would continue to cover those people if they choose to stay in the plan.
Unlike Tricare, however, the USTF plan also would continue to cover retirees eligible for Medicare.
Tricare has been implemented in three of seven regions and is scheduled to be rolled out nationwide by mid-1997. Only two USTFs are now located in regions in which Tricare has been implemented.
The USTFs are former Public Health Service hospitals that were allowed to serve military beneficiaries when they were privatized in the early 1980s. The Defense Department has resisted their inclusion in the military healthcare system, however.
The agreement to continue the USTF program-which had been scheduled to expire on Sept. 30, 1997, with the end of the 1997 federal fiscal year-was negotiated among the USTFs, Defense Department health affairs officials and congressional committee staff members.
The USTFs are located in Baltimore; Boston; Cleveland; Houston; New York; Portland, Maine; and Seattle.