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Change could be on the horizon for the military health care system.
Top military and health officials met last week to discuss possible reforms to what many describe as an ailing operation. The event, hosted by Brookings Institution and broadcast on C-Span, drew inspiration from the broader national health care conversation, focusing on budget solutions and how best to provide compassionate care.
One of the key takeaways, according to the Military Times, was that budgetary woes could be eased by moving members of the military not on active duty, along with their families, to the insurance exchanges created by the Affordable Care Act.
The Military Times cited Alice Rivlin, former director of the Congressional Budget Office and current senior fellow in economic studies at Brookings, as the first person to mention the option at the panel discussion, noting that other participants were quick to follow her lead.
"The case for the special supply of (health) services is strong for the active duty. For the families … the case for having a dedicated supply system is much weaker," said Henry Aaron, another senior fellow at Brookings.
"Currently, active-duty family members on Tricare Prime — the military's health maintenance organization-style program — pay no annual enrollment fees and no cost-shares to see a physician. Retirees pay $555.84 a year to enroll themselves and their families in Tricare Prime," the Military Times reported.
Brookings accompanied the live event with a Twitter chat, using the hashtag #militaryhealth to share highlights. One of the themes of the online conversation was the incredible size of the military health care system, a fact that complicates efforts to implement changes.
The military system encompasses 54 hospitals, more than 350 medical clinics, 9.5 million covered lives and 380,000 providers, tweeted Health at Brookings, quoting Dr. Jonathan Woodson, assistant secretary of defense for health affairs and the event's keynote speaker.
Although perhaps the biggest military health story of 2014 was the controversy surrounding wait lists at VA medical centers, the military health care system as a whole has been under scrutiny throughout the year, due, at least in part, to an investigative series from The New York Times.
The latest Times piece published Saturday, explored how health care workers have reportedly been sanctioned for speaking out about flaws in medical care.
"At any hospital, patient safety and quality of care depend on the willingness of medical workers to be free to speak bluntly to — and about — higher-ups without being ignored, or worse, punished. In interviews and email exchanges, many doctors, nurses and other medical workers said military hospitals fall short of that objective," the Times reported.