By Debbie Gregory.
The military takes pride in being on the leading edge of military medicine. Dr. Jonathan Woodson is the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs and Director, Tricare Management Activity. In this role, he administers the more than $50 billion Military Health System (MHS) budget and serves as principal advisor to the Secretary of Defense for health issues. The MHS comprises over 133,000 military and civilian doctors, nurses, medical educators, researchers, healthcare providers, allied health professionals, and health administration personnel worldwide. This network provides our nation with unequalled integrated healthcare delivery, and expeditionary medical, educational and research capabilities.
The Military Health System is the enterprise within the United States Department of Defense that provides health care to active duty and retired U.S. military personnel and their dependents. Its mission is to provide health support for the full range of military operations and sustain the health of all who are entrusted to MHS care.
The MHS also provides, where space is available, health care to dependents of active duty service members, to retirees and their dependents, and to some former spouses. Such care has been made available since 1966, (with certain limitations and co-payments), through the Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Uniformed Services (CHAMPUS) and its successor, TRICARE. In October 2001, TRICARE benefits were extended to retirees and their dependents aged 65 and over.
The Department of Defense contracts with more than 11,000 military health care professionals, at an annual cost of about $1 billion. A recent Government Accountability Office report says the military could do more to coordinate its contracting duties, to save money and avoid duplication.
Dr. Woodson addressed reservists at a symposium’s medical seminar. He lauded the U.S. military medical system as being the best in the world. Now that the Afghanistan war is winding down, Woodman says that a new strategy is necessary for defining and developing the future of military medicine.
The clock is ticking on the Tricare Management Activity, the Joint Task Force National Capital Region Medical Command and other military health offices slated for aggregation into the new Defense Health Agency.
Starting October 1st, the Defense Health Agency will oversee about half of the common health services used by the military medical commands, such as Tricare, pharmacy benefits, health information technology, medical logistics and facilities planning.
This is the biggest structural organizational change in the military health system’s history.