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Tricare West beneficiaries prepare for change

Feb. 21, 2013 - 02:43PM   |   Last Updated: Feb. 21, 2013 - 02:43PM  |  
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Tricare is notifying nearly 3 million beneficiaries in the Tricare West Region of upcoming changes they will see as a result of UnitedHealthcare Military & Veterans assuming management of the region on April 1.

Tricare Management Activity is mailing "welcome packets" to Tricare West users that contain UnitedHealth web addresses and phone numbers as well as transition information.

Among the most pressing requirements is a need for those who pay Tricare enrollment fees monthly by electronic funds transfer or debit and credit cards to authorize UnitedHealthcare to receive payments.

Deadline for submitting the automatic payment form is March 11.

UnitedHealth was awarded the Tricare West region contract in March 2012 and will officially assume the contract on April 1.

Under the new contract, beneficiaries will be required to file claims to new addresses, have new case managers if they had been assigned one by TriWest, and may need to find a new doctor, since UnitedHealth's civilian network differs from the current contractor, TriWest Healthcare Alliance.

How many will be affected has yet to be determined, since UnitedHealth is still building its civilian provider network, Tricare Management Activity spokesman Austin Camacho said.

"UnitedHealth Group has one of the largest national provider networks now, with 98 percent of Americans living within 100 miles of a network provider. They are continuing to develop an even larger network to best serve beneficiaries in the West Region," Camacho said.

The welcome packet encourages beneficiaries to speak with their provider to become a Tricare-authorized physician. Tricare has set up a">website that contains a downloadable flyer for patients to give their physicians.

In a letter to beneficiaries, UnitedHealthcare Military & Veterans CEO Lori McDougal said the company looks forward to providing them information and assistance.

"The Tricare Regional Office West is working closely with UnitedHealthcare to ensure the continued delivery of quality health care and customer satisfaction," McDougal wrote.

In the welcome packet, UnitedHealthcare notes it will offer new features designed to improve access to care, including convenience care clinics in retail stores and pharmacies, urgent care centers with broader appointment availability and walk-in treatment, and improved telehealth networks for those living in remote areas.

The packet also tells expectant mothers that referrals and authorizations for obstetrics care issued before March 31 will be honored by UnitedHealth for the duration of their pregnancy and follow-on care, up to 312 days.

Beneficiaries can expect to see the information in their mailboxes within the next two weeks, Tricare officials said.

UnitedHealthcare also has established">a new website to provide more information.

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