There are a range of proposals being discussed in Congress right now for the 2016 fiscal year that affect military families. The Tricare reforms catch our attention because of the changes to procedures or policies in our health care system. One detail that particularly stands out is the proposed changes in emergency room care.
Under the 2016 plan, military families would have to pay a fee depending on your sponsor’s rank to utilize emergency room care for a misused visit.
What would deem a misused visit?
That’s still up for debate and can spark a whole new issue if the proposal does get approved.
Military families are rallying together to oppose the emergency room fees arguing that often times we are driven to use ERs for immediate care. When a parent would call their local MTF (Military Treatment Facility), it might be weeks or at worst months to schedule an appointment with their PCM (Primary Care Manager).
Additional factors that drive families to ER visits are MTF locations closed at needed times (evenings or weekends), not being able to receive the proper referrals to an Urgent Care facility and not to mention, the wait for paperwork to get pushed through, so you can start utilizing your new MTF location.
For example, immediately after my PCS to Virginia (literally 3 days after we moved in), I caught a sinus infection. My husband wasn’t due to report for another couple weeks, but I knew I had to see a doctor as soon as possible. Because of the tight turnaround, I didn’t have the proper paperwork ready or even changed our MTF facility yet. At the recommendation of hospital personnel, I used the emergency room so I could be seen and receive prompt attention.
Would this circumstance be considered a legitimate emergency under this proposal?
Also, you never really know what would constitute as a non-emergency when you may not actually know what’s going on yet. For example, if your daughter is complaining about her knee after a hard fall, do you take her to the ER on Saturday morning? Or wait it out until Monday when the MTF is open?
This proposal leaves a lot of questions unanswered and as a result, we start playing the waiting game on our family members’ health.
Keep in mind that adding a fee to emergency room care is only a single proposal among many that are being discussed by lawmakers. National Military Family Association, a nonprofit that advocates for military families on Capitol Hill, breaks it down for us here.
NMFA argues that the problem stems from military families not given the proper avenues for urgent care and day-of appointments. The organization is working toward “improved access to acute care appointments for all military families using MTFs.”
In addition, NMFA started a petition for this particular issue. If you disagree with the emergency room care fee, sign their petition here.