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Update for July 25th, 2016

TREA Washington Update for Monday, July 25th 2016

 

Like the most of the rest of the country Washington DC is melting under record hot conditions. Congress is on recess but the town is full of tourists. They are looking at the Smithsonian and the monuments and the historical homes. Meanwhile the residents are watching the National Conventions in Cleveland and Philadelphia. (Yes, some of us still do watch them.)

The following articles are in this week’s update:

 

DoD awards latest TRICARE managed care contracts

Bill to Streamline Vet Transition to Rural Medical Fields Heads to Obama's Desk

Regulators Shut Down Largest For-Profit College Accrediting Agency

Webinar to Discuss TRICARE Dental Options set for this Wednesday

Please participate in Legislative Survey

VA Announces New Partnerships and Collaboration

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DoD awards latest TRICARE managed care contracts

 

Last Thursday the Defense Health Agency (DHA) awarded the next pair of TRICARE managed care contracts. Yes, now there are only 2 CONUS TRICARE contracts- the East and the West. They are presently scheduled to go into effect in 2017.

 

Humana was awarded the East contract and HealthNet (now part of Cenrene) was awarded the west.  The number of contractual regions has been shrinking for the last several years. Presently there are 3 TRICARE regions – the North, the South and the West.

 

The North region contract is held by HealthNet; the South contract is held by Humana and the West contract is presently held by UnitedHealthcare.

 

It is not clear whether UnitedHealthcare, as the odd man out will challenge the contract award. After the award announcement UnitedHealthcare said that it was evaluating its next steps and would be “participating in the government’s debrief process…..We remain committed to serving the health care needs of our country’s military service members, retirees and their families in the TRICARE West Region…. “UnitedHealthcare will continue to look for opportunities to support the Defense Health Agency to bring quality and innovative solutions to meet TRICARE beneficiaries’ health care needs.” There were other companies bidding for the contracts as well and they will also, surely be considering whether or not they will protest the awards.

 

The TRICARE contracts are some of the biggest contracts the Pentagon awards. Presently 9.2 – 9.4 million military family members and military retires under the age of 65 are enrolled in TRICARE.

The new East region contract has a $67.5 million for the first year with an estimate of $40.5 billion for the additional 4 years of the contract.

 

The new West region contract is valued at more than $49 million for the first year and up to $17.7 billion over the five-year contract period.

 

The new East TRICARE region will include the District of Columbia; Alabama; Arkansas; Connecticut; Delaware; Florida; Georgia; Illinois; Indiana; the Rock Island Arsenal area of Iowa; Kentucky; Louisiana; Maine; Maryland; Massachusetts; Michigan; Mississippi; the St. Louis, Missouri, area; New Hampshire; New Jersey; New York; North Carolina; Ohio; Oklahoma; Pennsylvania; Rhode Island; South Carolina; Tennessee; most of Texas; Vermont; Virginia; West Virginia and Wisconsin.

 

The new TRICARE West region will include Alaska; Arizona; California; Colorado; Hawaii; Idaho; all of Iowa except the Rock Island Arsenal area; Kansas; Minnesota; all of Missouri except the St. Louis area; Montana; Nebraska; Nevada; New Mexico; North Dakota; Oregon; South Dakota; west Texas; Utah; Washington and Wyoming.

 

(Presently the North region includes North Carolina but not Tennessee and goes as far west as Illinois. The South includes Tennessee plus the Fort Campbell Kentucky area and stretches west to include Oklahoma and most of Texas. Finally, the West includes Hawaii and Alaska and a portion of Texas, as well as states north of Oklahoma and west of Illinois. So most states will be changing their TRICARE managed care provider contractors, if the present awards actually go into effect.)

The award of these contracts has always been a dramatic thing. 2009 was the last time the then 3 TRICARE Managed Care Contracts were awarded. But by the end of the contract challenges all three awardees changed. We will be watching if there are any challenges this time.  

 

Director of the Defense Health Agency (DHA) Vice Adm. Raquel Bono was quoted as saying: “We’ve been doing this now for almost 20 years, and in each generation of our contract we’ve learned something new. … We really wanted to make sure that our beneficiaries have the benefit of a more simplified, straightforward process.”

 

Probably a great deal more to come. TREA will keep you informed.

 

 

Bill to Streamline Vet Transition to Rural Medical Fields Heads to Obama's Desk

Last week a bipartisan bill introduced by Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Senator Mike Enzi (R-WY) passed the Senate and will head to President Obama's desk. The Veterans to Paramedics Transition Act streamlines civilian health care training in the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act by making it easier for veterans to secure jobs as paramedics, emergency medical technicians, and nurses. The bill would also help to reduce the shortage of much-needed emergency medical personnel in rural communities across the country.

 

Rural communities have historically faced critical shortages in emergency medical personnel. Meanwhile, thousands of men and women in the military receive emergency medical training as part of their duties. Most Army combat medics are currently certified as Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) at the basic level. When these veterans return to civilian life, however, their military-based medical training is often not counted toward training and certification as civilian paramedics. Many existing programs require all students to begin with an entry-level curriculum. For veterans, this means spending extra time and money for training that they have already received. The bill authorizes federal grants for universities, colleges, technical schools, and State EMS agencies to develop an appropriate curriculum to train these veterans and fast-track their eligibility for paramedic certification; hopefully this standardized paramedic training program would take one to two years to complete.

 

 

Regulators Shut Down Largest For-Profit College Accrediting Agency

A federal panel voted last month to shut down the largest accrediting agency of private sector colleges and universities in the country. The 10-3 decision by the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity (NACIQI) effectively eliminates access to federal financial aid to hundreds of schools accredited by the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS) that enroll nearly 800,000 students. Of those 800,000 approximately 35,000 are veterans. This is a major problem, because in the next few months those veterans will find that they are ineligible to receive tuition and BAH payments.

 

Without those BAH payments many of them may lose their housing.

 

US News & World Report said that Steve Gunderson, president and CEO of Career Education Colleges and Universities, warned during his testimony that the revocation of ACICS’ authority would amount to a collapse of post-secondary vocational training in the U.S. It seems likely that this is an overstatement of reality.

 

In total, the Department of Education recognizes 37 accrediting agencies that are “gatekeepers” to the federal student loan system. Those agencies review colleges based on a variety of issues, including academic quality, personnel, instructional resources and many others. Using that information, the agencies approve or deny schools access to federal financial aid benefits.

 

ACICS approves about 725 institutions and last year oversaw $3.3 billion in federal financial aid; it has accredited schools including Corinthian Colleges, which was shut down last year. The fact that Corinthian Colleges was accredited the whole time until it was shut down by regulators was a major part of why NACIQI made the decision to terminate ACICS.

 

According to an analysis from the Center for American Progress, from 2010 to 2015 ACICS in 90 instances approved and named schools to its honor roll around the same time they were under investigation. The companies that owned those schools, which took in more than $5.7 billion in federal funds over the past three years, represent 52 percent of all federal aid dollars received by ACICS-approved colleges during that period.

 

 

Webinar to Discuss TRICARE Dental Options set for Wednesday

 

“TRICARE is hosting a webinar to educate TRICARE beneficiaries about TRICARE Dental Options. The webinar will take place on Wednesday, July 27, 2016, from noon-1 p.m. EST.

No prior registration is required; simply join us at noon on the specified day and time at https://conference.apps.mil/webconf/DentalOptions. For audio, dial 1-877-917-9487, pass code 6186462. Questions will be taken after the presentation. Participants must avoid sharing personal health information when asking a question. 

TRICARE offers dental benefits for active duty family members, retirees, and National Guard and Reserve families.”

 

 

Please participate in Legislative Survey

 

Below is a link to a survey currently being conducted by the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA).  MOAA has invited TREA and our sister military and veterans associations to make our members aware of the survey and encourage you to take it.  As you get into the survey it asks a few questions about you, including your rank.  We believe it is important that enlisted personnel be a prominent part of the survey because the results will be given to lawmakers and hearing from enlisted personnel will make the survey results much more valid.

You can begin the survey by clicking on the link below.?

 

SURVEY: WHAT’S IMPORTANT TO YOU?

 

 

 

VA Announces New Partnerships and Collaboration

Below is an interesting VA Press Release:

 VA Announces New Partnerships and Collaboration

Commitment is Part of the VA’s Expanded Strategic Partnership Efforts

WASHINGTON – The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) today announced partnerships and collaboration with Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation, IBM and Bombas. The three, distinct, relationships are a part of the MyVA Strategic Partnership Initiative, which aims to work together with external organizations to improve the delivery and access of care for Veterans. The announcement of the three new partnerships came on the heels of the MyVA Advisory Committee meeting held last week in Boston. MyVA is the largest transformation in the history of VA.

 

 “The strength of MyVA is enhanced by the public-private partnerships we are forming,” said VA Secretary Robert A. McDonald. “Over the past two years, we have engaged in dozens of new and important partnerships. We are pleased to work with these companies and organizations who have committed their resources to serve the Veterans who served our nation.”

 

The Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation will partner with VA to identify synergies and facilitate linkages between our respective programs.  To date, BMSF has awarded 30 grants totaling over $15 million to veterans service organizations and academic teaching hospital partners to develop, implement and evaluate innovative models of community-based care and support that improve the mental health and community reintegration outcomes of Veterans and their families. Together, through this new partnership, the two organizations are committed to serving more Veterans throughout the continuum of care from community to clinical settings.

 

On June 29,  Vice President Biden hosted a Moonshot Cancer Summit in Washington DC to bring together private and public partners to encourage collaboration in treatment and cures for cancer. As a part of that initiative, VA teamed up with IBM Watson Health to increase access to precision medicine for 10,000 VA cancer patients over the next two years. VA provides care to 3.5 percent of the nation’s cancer patients – the largest group of cancer patients in the country. Watson is expected to help VA clinicians give Veterans rapid access to precision medicine options, particularly for patients with advanced cancer.

 

VA also announced a collaboration with Bombas. Bombas was founded two years ago as a give-back sock company, after learning that socks are the #1 most-requested clothing item at homeless shelters. For every pair of socks purchased from the company, it donates a pair of socks, and to date has donated nearly 1 million pairs. To  reach homeless Veterans in New York, Bombas worked with with VA medical centers donating 700 pairs of socks to the NY Harbor and Bronx VA Medical Centers. Bombas and VA plan to continue their work together throughout the rest of the year and in the future, to expand the reach of the program to other cities and states across the country.

 

Each of these relationships align with the strategic priorities of mental health, research and homelessness and reflect VA’s commitment to teaming with external organizations and companies to better serve Veterans.

 

Since the launch of MyVA, the Department has entered into new relationships with a number of external organizations to combat issues of homelessness, suicide and Veteran unemployment.

 

More information about MyVA may be found at www.blogs.va.gov/VAntage/21806/myva-a-message-from-sec-bob-mcdonald. Information about the three new VA partners may be found at www.bms.com/foundation/Pages/home.aspx; www-03.ibm.com/press/us/en/pressrelease/50061.wss; and www.bombas.com.

 

Photo:  Bottle Break- Master Sgt. Matthew Tabor breaks a bottle to christen an H-21B helicopter in Heritage Park at Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark., July 14, 2016. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Harry Brexel

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