Walk-in TRICARE Service Centers will close this spring

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From Stripes.com

Walk-in TRICARE Service Centers will close this spring

by: Jon Harper | .
Stars and Stripes | .
published: January 14, 2014

WASHINGTON — Deemed too costly in the age of the Internet, customer service at walk-in TRICARE Service Centers will no longer be available to beneficiaries after March 31.

The walk-in TSCs have been open since the 1990s.

“Now that TRICARE is a mature program and beneficiaries increasingly use more convenient Internet and toll-free phone options, continuing walk-in customer service at TSCs is no longer cost-effective,” according to a TRICARE fact sheet.

A majority of TRICARE customer service transactions are already done online or by phone, DOD spokeswoman Lt. Col. Cathy Wilkinson told Stars and Stripes.

The walk-in TSCs cost roughly $51 million a year to operate, and closing them will save DOD $254 million over five years, according to the fact sheet.

“This change supports the Department of Defense’s efforts to manage the rising cost of providing health care for TRICARE’s 9.6 million beneficiaries,” according to the fact sheet.

There are 189 walk-in TSCs in the continental United States, most of which are located in or near military hospitals and clinics, Pentagon spokesman Col. Steve Warren said. All of them will be closed, but TSCs outside the U.S. will remain open “due to the unique needs of overseas beneficiaries,” according to the fact sheet. Contact information for TSCs in the U.S. and overseas can be found at www.tricare.mil/ContactUs/CallUs.aspx.

The walk-in TSCs are run by three regional contractors — Humana, UnitedHealthCare, and Health Net Federal Services. These contractors will continue to manage customer support for beneficiaries after the walk-in offices are closed, according to the fact sheet. TRICARE and DOD officials don’t know how many contractor employees will be affected by the closures.

The TSCs help beneficiaries with administrative matters, including enrollment and billing. They are not directly involved in providing health care.

“This change does not affect any TRICARE benefits or health care services,” Warren said.

Wilkinson said all of the administrative services that walk-in TSCs currently provide can be handled by TRICARE websites, mobile apps and toll-free phone centers.

Beneficiaries can do the following on the TRICARE website:
■ Enroll in or purchase a plan
■ File a check or claim
■ View referrals and prior authorizations
■ Find a doctor
■ Change primary care managers
■ See what services and procedures are covered by their health plans
■ Compare plans
■ Manage prescriptions

Twitter: @JHarperStripes

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