Senators request answers on TRICARE plan changes

Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) joined a bipartisan group of legislators on Friday who raised concerns over changes to military benefits that exclude coverage for more than 100 lab tests.

In a letter to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, the senators said beneficiaries and providers of TRICARE health plans were not notified before the changes went into effect on Jan. 1, 2013, so doctors continued to order the tests.

“We are concerned that TRICARE’s refusal of coverage and reimbursement for certain laboratory developed tests outside of a military treatment facility denies military families and patients access to care simply because they either choose to receive care at a civilian medical provider or are unable to access a MTF,” the senators said. “Additionally, it is concerning that TRICARE changed a reimbursement policy which may negatively impact a significant population of patients and military families. It is our understanding that molecular pathology laboratory tests and other LDTs are standard practice of care for many providers.”

The senators requested that Hagel answer questions related to TRICARE’s notification and public comment period for reimbursement changes, the system used to glean stakeholder feedback, the justification for the plan changes and the appeals process. Hagel was asked to respond before March 14.

“Our military’s health insurance should adhere to the widely held standards of care accepted by the medical community at large,” Burr said. “Our members of the military and their families should have the same access as other government employees and civilians in the private sector and not be penalized for receiving care at a private facility.”

Sens. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.), James Inhofe (R-Okla.), Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) joined Burr in sending the letter.