ARMED FORCES NEWS
MEDICARE PREMIUM TO SPIKE 17 PERCENT
September 17, 2004
 

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has announced that the premium to be paid by Medicare beneficiaries enrolled in Medicare Part B will jump to $78.20 in 2005 This is an increase of $11.60 over the $66.60 premium in 2004. The new premium reflects general growth in health care costs, higher payments to physicians and Medicare Advantage coordinated care health plans under the Medicare Modernization Act, and a build of trust fund reserves, says HHS. Medicare Part B covers physician services, outpatient hospital services, certain home health services, durable medical equipment and other items. Military retirees and their spouses and survivors must be enrolled in Part B to be eligible for Tricare for Life benefits.

 

ARMED FORCES NEWS
TRICARE OFFICIALS OFFER TIPS FOR CONTRACT TRANSITION
September 17, 2004
 

Some Tricare beneficiaries may experience long waits when calling their new regional contractors, but the transition to new contracts "will make a strong program better and ultimately result in higher patient satisfaction," Tricare officials said. They suggest conducting business online when possible, calling during nonpeak hours, and visiting Tricare service centers for face-to-face assistance as ways to beat phone congestion. Beneficiaries still may call their regional contractor, officials said, but they might experience long waits due to high call volume during the transition. Officials suggest that, since more people call on Mondays, beneficiaries should consider calling on other days. Thursdays and Fridays have the least calls, officials said, giving these days the best chance for gaining quick access. The toll-free regional contractor telephone numbers are: Tricare North: (877) Tricare (874-2273); Tricare South: (800) 444-5445; and Tricare West: (888) Triwest (874-9378). 
 

ARMED FORCES NEWS
VA OUTREACHES TO WOMEN VETERANS
September 17, 2004
 

The Department of Veterans Affairs has developed initiatives for women veterans that assure they receive their benefits. For example, most VA regional offices, medical centers and vet centers now have a Women Veterans’ Coordinator to assist women veterans in accessing VA benefits and health care services. In addition, women VA patients receive complete physical examinations upon admission, including breast and pelvic exams. Clinicians emphasize preventive health care and counseling, including contraceptive services and menopause management, Pap smears and mammography. VA Clinicians and Women Veterans Coordinators receive specialized training and sensitivity awareness to help sexual assault victims. Additionally, VA provides specialized counseling and treatment - including a national toll-free telephone number (1-800-827-1000) - for sexual trauma that occurred during military service. For more information on VA outreaches to women veterans, visit the Center for Women Veterans home page at http://www1.va.gov/womenvet/.
 

THE PARTNERSHIP FOR VETERANS HEALTH CARE BUDGET REFORM
BROKEN BUDGET PROCESS AGAIN FAILS VETERANS
September 23, 2004

As lawmakers rush out of town to campaign for the fall elections, they will be leaving America's sick and disabled veterans and the nation's largest health care system in a state of limbo, as they have for the last five years.

With only days until the start of the new fiscal year, once again the veterans health care system faces uncertainty about funding levels because Congress has failed to deliver a timely appropriations bill for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). In fact, some in Congress are proposing to keep funding at the current inadequate level through a device known as a continuing resolution.

This will compromise the VA's ability to provide health care services and force the VA to deny more veterans access to care or charge veterans more for the care they receive. Veterans will continue to face lengthy delays for medical appointments, the possibility of increased co-payments, and the denial, for many eligible veterans, of access to care. 
Congress must enact legislation immediately that will guarantee a reliable, predictable funding stream for veterans health care. Guaranteed full funding will enable the VA to efficiently and effectively plan for and provide the necessary care for our nation's sick and disabled veterans.

The President's Task Force to Improve Health Care Delivery for Our Nation's Veterans suggested mandatory funding for VA health care as a solution to the significant mismatch between demand for VA services and available funding. Mandatory funding for veterans health care also is supported by an overwhelming majority of Americans, according to a nationwide survey conducted earlier this year by Princeton Survey Research Associates International.
Congress is failing America's sick and disabled veterans by not passing an adequate budget in a timely manner. During a time of war, when Americans are being seriously injured every day, it is unconscionable that VA funding is not a priority for Congress.

The Partnership for Veterans Health Care Budget Reform includes The American Legion, AMVETS, Blinded Veterans Association, Disabled American Veterans, Jewish War Veterans of the USA, Military Order of the Purple Heart of the U.S.A., Paralyzed Veterans of America, Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States, and Vietnam Veterans of America.
 

ARMED FORCES NEWS
PENALTY-FREE PART B FOR CERTAIN MEDICARE BENEFICIARIES
September 24, 2004

Penalty-Free Part B for Certain Medicare Beneficiaries
The Defense Department has announced that Medicare-eligible military beneficiaries who are not enrolled in Medicare Part B will be enrolled automatically by the Social Security Administration during Sept. 2004 with no late enrollment surcharge. Such enrollments (which beneficiaries may decline) will make them eligible for Tricare or Tricare for Life health benefits, depending upon their status. Also, beneficiaries who enrolled in Part B since 2001 and are paying more than $66.60 per month will receive a refund for the premium surcharges paid since January 2004. Those who have paid premium surcharges during 2004 will have them refunded automatically as well. Beneficiaries who do not receive a notice by Nov. 1 should contact their local Social Security Office. If they have questions about enrolling in Medicare Part B, they may call SSA toll free, at (800) 772-1213 or visit any Social Security office.
Part B Enrollment Jolts Some Beneficiaries
While Medicare-eligible military retirees and spouses aged 65 and over who did not enroll in Medicare Part B automatically will be enrolled this month without a penalty (previous item), some 16,000 under age 65 may be in for a surprise. Due to government failures in data cross-matching and lack of understanding by members of this group, they may have been using Tricare without being enrolled in Medicare Part B. These beneficiaries, who draw Social Security Disability Insurance payments, are being informed that the law requires them to be enrolled in Part B in order to participate in Tricare, and that they are being enrolled automatically. The Defense Department and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services discovered the error last April, but, due to urging from several veterans' organizations, opted to let the beneficiaries retain their Tricare eligibility at that time without requiring any paybacks.

 

ARMED FORCES NEWS
TRICARE PRIME ALLOTMENTS BEGIN FOR RETIREES
September 24, 2004

Tricare Prime Allotments Begin for Retirees
Military retirees enrolled in Tricare Prime now can choose to have premiums deducted from their retired pay via allotments. The allotments are being phased in between August and November. All transactions will be handled by the three TRICARE regional representatives. This option went into effect in August for the West region, September for the North and is set for October for the South with the first pay deductions starting the following month. Visit www.tricare.osd.mil for regional contact information.
 

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