Armed Forces News

Congress has ordered a six-month test program beginning in July to offer Tricare coverage for reservists who are unemployed or whose employers do not offer health care benefits. However, William Winkenwerder Jr., principal DoD deputy for health affairs, has told the Senate Armed Services personnel subcommittee it is unclear if DoD can or will be ready by July. Although Winkenwerder didn?t say DoD would not comply, he pointed out that it takes 12 to 18 months in the private sector to make such a major change, including time to modify Tricare contracts. He noted the possibility of limiting the number of beneficiaries and running the test for several years to collect and study data. To further deter the test, the fiscal 2005 defense budget contained funding for it only through Sept. 30.