GAO: Doctors Turn Away TRICARE Patients

(April 4, 2013) Many military members and retirees, including National Guard members and their families, are being denied health care by physicians who are unaware of the TRICARE program.

A Government Accountability Office study released this week found that about 620,000 potential recipients of TRICARE have trouble finding private doctors who will accept the Pentagon’s prime health care progam.

Physicians also indicated they were troubled by the small amount of compensation and the length of time they wait for payment.

The study released Tuesday is entitled “TRICARE Multiyear Surveys Indicate Problems with Access to Care for Nonenrolled Beneficiaries.” The full report can be found here.

The report was mentioned today in USA Today, which pointed out that access to mental health care is particularly difficult.

The GAO surveyed data from 2008 to 2011 from civilian providers. It found that six in 10 civilian providers were accepting new TRICARE patients. Of those who did not, the main reason was a lack of awareness of the program.

The number of providers accepting TRICARE has gone down since a previous survey of data from 2005 to 2007.

Only an estimated 39 percent of civilian mental health care providers accept new TRICARE patients.

The survey found that doctors in California and Texas were particularly likely to not accept new TRICARE patients. Nearly all doctors in those states accept new patients, but more than half turn away TRICARE beneficiaries.