Tricare may permanently close all of their stateside in-person service centers early next spring in a move aimed at saving money.
The centers, located in free-standing buildings or within military hospitals on bases around the world, help Tricare users with things like processing local-level care appeals, registering newborns and base in-processing. Often, however, Tricare workers at the centers simply refer customers to the Tricare 800 number via a phone bank inside the office.
The news was originally reported by our friends over at MilitaryOneClick and confirmed to them by several Tricare representatives. A DoD representative told Military.com that plans for closure have not been finalized. But a June report sent to Congress by the DoD specifically names April 1, 2014 as the date by which the centers will be closed.
Centers on overseas bases are not being considered for closure, the DoD spokesperson told Military.com.
For military families closing the service centers could mean even bigger problems navigating the Tricare system. While many of the functions the service centers do in-person can be done over the phone, such as helping a servicemember in-process and change Tricare regions and primary care providers, others really cannot.
For example, my family used the Tricare service center to navigate the local Tricare appeal process. We wanted to change our off-post pediatrician without leaving Tricare Prime. When our request was denied we were required to file hand written appeal after appeal that was sent to the local military hospital's Tricare manager. By the end we knew the service center employees by name -- and eventually our request was granted.
How that local appeal process would work via the 800 number is not yet known.
But that's just my family. How would closing the service center impact YOU? Do you think closing it is a good idea? Take our poll, check out the results below, and leave us your thoughts in the comment section.