Deep Cuts Are Coming to Military Medicine

Deep Cuts Are Coming to Military Medicine
(Defense Department photo)

If you use any military medical facility for your or your family’s health care, you may be affected by the impending harsh reduction of military medical personnel. These cuts in medical staff would span all specialties and may affect active duty families and all retirees, both under and over age 65, if you are currently using any military hospital or clinic.

How can this happen? The Defense Department’s fiscal 2020 budget calls for the elimination of about 18,000 military medical positions — this is the result of massive reforms mandated in the fiscal 2017 National Defense Authorization Act to standardize and streamline the delivery of military medicine. This is roughly 20% of the military’s medical force. This reduction in medical capacity seems to have been developed absent a medical readiness requirement analysis in support of combatant operational plans. Instead, the cuts appear to be based on a market or network analysis in the vicinity of installations.

DOWNLOAD AND SHARE: Click here for the Dismantling Military Medicine fact sheet

Can TRICARE Networks handle more? A force reduction of this size will result in a change to the military health system, which will cause unintended consequences and have ramifications affecting all of American health care. These consequences will be felt in the areas of combat casualty care capabilities; recruitment and retention; and in the already taxed civilian health care sector. Retirees could see, and many are already experiencing, reductions in care, including pharmacy services. Many TRICARE Prime enrollees, including active duty families, are already being a pushed into the civilian network for all of their care resulting in higher out of pocket costs.

What is Congress doing about it? MOAA has put the word out to our legislators, and they have a lot of questions for DoD. To get answers, the House Appropriations Committee on Tuesday recommended witholding $250 million from the Defense Health Agency until the department could explain the risks of making such drastic cuts. The $250 million is to be used to hire civilian and contract workers for medical jobs, Military.Com reports

The Bottom Line: Even with initial steps from Congress, this may be just the beginning, and we need all hands on deck – we need you.

TAKE ACTION NOW: Tell Congress not to dismantle military medicine


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About the Author

Capt. Kathryn M. Beasley, USN (Ret), is a former director of health affairs for MOAA Government Relations.