|Lawmakers Reach Agreement on Defense Bill: Urgent Care Pilot Program Included|
This week, U.S. Senate and House lawmakers reached agreement on a fiscal 2016 defense authorization bill (H.R. 1735), which is expected to pass the House today (Oct. 1). Included in the bill is a three-year pilot program that allows TRICARE beneficiaries to access urgent care without preauthorization. The Senate is expected to vote on the bill next week, but President Obama has issued a veto threat over additional war funding included in the bill.
For several months, UCAOA has been championing the inclusion language that would allow TRICARE beneficiaries to access urgent care without preauthorization. The Senate-passed bill would have allowed up to four urgent care visits without preauthorization, but the House bill did not include any related language. The compromise that has emerged is the pilot program that will look at whether waiving prior authorization requirements can reduce the number of inappropriate emergency department visits. The pilot program also incorporates a nurse advice line to direct beneficiaries to the most appropriate level of health care, including urgent care. A year after the pilot is initiated, the Department of Defense is required to issue a report to Congress that details what it considers an optimal number of urgent care visits without preauthorization.
Throughout the summer, UCAOA called upon its members to contact their lawmakers in support of waiving preauthorization requirements. The UCAOA thanks those who took action.