TRICARE still providing services despite shutdown, but there may be some difficulties

Get the latest news about the government shutdown first. Sign up for our breaking news alerts.

Subscribe to Federal Drive’s daily audio interviews on iTunes or PodcastOne.

The government is officially closed and service members and their families are now facing the effects.

Many may be wondering how their government-provided health care will be administered.

Advertisement

The Defense Department assured troops Jan. 21 that the military health system (MHS) would continue to provide health care to its beneficiaries during the shutdown.

However, that doesn’t mean there won’t be any changes.

“While we can’t predict the exact consequences of a shutdown on every part of our MHS, we may see some impacts on the delivery of healthcare services within our military hospitals and clinics,” a statement on the TRICARE website said.

Inpatient and acute and emergency outpatient care will still be provided in government facilities. Private sector care under TRICARE will also continue.

DoD is expecting most medical, dental and pharmaceutical providers to honor TRICARE copays and cost shares.

“If for some reason a TRICARE network provider or pharmacy requires you to pay up front for care, call your regional contractor to discuss it with the provider. If the contractor can’t immediately resolve the issue, you can still choose to get care with that provider and save your receipts to file for reimbursement,” the statement said.

TRICARE will see some kinks due to the shutdown. TRICARE regional offices will be unable to process travel benefits for Prime patients who need care from network providers outside the area. DoD says to have travel receipts for reimbursement after the shutdown ends.

Additionally, government administrative actions like appeals, line of duty determinations and grievances may be delayed or paused because of shutdown staffing levels.

Only 2 of 8 AFN channels will operate

Troops overseas and on homeland bases rely on the Armed Forces Network (AFN) for news and entertainment.

Only two of AFN’s eight channels will remain on. Troops will get news and sports channels, allowing service members to watch the Sunday NFL playoff games.

Sports broadcasting is not an essential activity and stopped to comply with the shutdown. With minimal manning, we can keep the sports channel up without incurring any additional cost or manpower-complying with shutdown guidance.

“Thanks to uniform leadership at AFN, our comptroller and legal team, we were able to turn on one channel based on operational necessity and FY17 funds had already been paid on the contract. The sports channel was turned on because it doesn’t cost any more money or manpower to manage a second channel,” Chief DoD Spokesperson Dana W. White said in a Jan. 21 statement.