Murkowski Announces One-Year Delay of New Policy Affecting Some Alaska Military Retirees

Murkowski Announces that TRICARE Grants One-Year Delay of New Policy Potentially Restricting On-Base Care to Some Alaska Military Retirees

WASHINGTON, D.C. – At the urging of U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, the Defense Department has exempted Alaskans for one year from a new policy directive that requires military retirees enrolled in TRICARE’s Prime Option who live more than 30 minutes or more than 100 miles from a military health facility request and obtain a waiver in order to continue receiving care on base. The exemption expires in late 2010. The decision was made by Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Ellen P. Embrey (see attachment for Embrey decision memo).

In a letter to Rear Admiral Christine Hunter, deputy director of the TRICARE Management Activity at the Defense Department, earlier this month, Murkowski had asked for either a delay of the implementation of the new policy or an exemption from the requirement altogether for Alaska TRICARE participants.

Embrey said the change was made in light of Alaska’s unique health care delivery challenges and a scarcity of civilian primary care doctors that accept TRICARE in the state.

“I am glad that TRICARE acted on my suggestion to temporarily exempt Alaska beneficiaries from the waiver requirement,” Murkowski said. “A one-year delay should give the Defense Department time to figure out a permanent solution. Alaska’s veterans and military retirees are well accustomed to travelling distances that might seem long in some parts of the United States to access their earned health benefits. This is the least we can do to honor the service of Alaska’s military retirees, thus allowing them to continue to receive care in the familiar surroundings to which they have grown accustomed.”

Murkowski recently met with Rear Admiral Christine Hunter, deputy director of the TRICARE Management Activity at the Defense Department, to discuss the new directive, which has prompted a flurry of concern among Alaska TRICARE beneficiaries, especially in the Matanuska-Susitna Valley. Hunter said at the meeting that TRICARE would consider Murkowski’s request.

More than 1,500 Alaska beneficiaries were advised of the change in policy in letters that began arriving in their mailboxes at the end of August. Those letters requested that the affected beneficiaries request a waiver by September 15, 2009.

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