FORT HOOD — Tricare users will no longer be able to discuss their insurance coverage in person beginning April 1.
The 189 U.S.-based Tricare Service Centers will end administrative walk-in services on that date, Pentagon officials said Tuesday. This includes the Fort Hood center, 36029 Santa Fe Ave., just outside the Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center.
Overseas service centers are not affected.
“The change will not — let me repeat that — will not affect any Tricare medical benefit or health care service,” said Col. Steve Warren, Pentagon spokesman. “What it will do is allow the department to save $250 million over the next five years, allowing Tricare to invest in more important services.”
Fort Hood’s office averages about 3,000 visitors each month, mostly driven by in and out processing and enrollments, said Austin Comacho, Tricare spokesman. Come April 1, Tricare will make enrollment available by phone for all beneficiaries, and is working with the services to eliminate in/out processing.
The Defense Department spends about $50 million a year on these services, according to the news release.
Tricare gets about 38,000 hits per day on its website. Officials ran tests to ensure the website and call center can handle the expected increase in volume.
Aside from this, these centers provide general customer service, he said. This includes answering billing and enrollment questions to claims inquiries.
All of these can be accomplished through existing toll-free and online services, Comacho said.
“While face-to-face customer service through the Tricare Service Center will no longer be available, our toll-free call centers still offer individual and personal customer service to our beneficiaries,” Comacho said.
Humana Military operates the Fort Hood center and employs more than 10 people there. The insurance company has until Tuesday to submit a proposal to the Defense Health Agency defining how it will continue to provide the other required services in support of military treatment facilities in the Tricare south region, said Walter Walker, Humana spokesman. Once approved, Humana will allocate the resources needed to meet the remaining contractual requirements.
“There may be a need to reduce the number of associates at the Fort Hood (center) due the elimination of walk-in services,” Walker said. “We are still in the development of the proposal. ... We are committed to assisting those associates affected by this change as they determine what their future role will be.”
Rose L. Thayer is the military editor for the Killeen Daily Herald. She joined the paper in February 2011 as a health and military reporter. View her complete profile Here. You can contact Rose L. Thayer at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7463. Follow her on Twitter at KDHmilitary.