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DOD proposes new military health agency

The Defense Department sent Congress a plan to establish a new agency that would absorb the functions of Tricare and take over responsibility for common clinical and business processes across the military health system.


The Defense Department sent Congress a plan to establish a new agency that would absorb the functions of Tricare and take over responsibility for common clinical and business processes across the military health system.

According to DOD, the creation of a new Defense Health Agency would enable the department to combine certain health system functions—such as health information technology, medical logistics and medical education—that could be shared by the three service branches to save money and increase efficiency. The Army, Navy and Air Force currently administer those processes separately.

The new agency also would absorb the functions of Tricare Management Activity, the civilian care component of the military health system. The move would have no effect on Tricare benefits, DOD said.

The creation of the new agency is one of three principal reforms outlined in a new DOD report on the governance of the military health system. Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton B. Carter on March 2 submitted the report to Congress as a requirement of the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act.

Under a second reform detailed in the report, the department would appoint market managers who would have greater authority “to create and sustain a cost-effective, coordinated, and high-quality health care system in multi-service medical markets.” Multi-service markets are those in which more than one military department delivers health care services to the entire population. A DOD task force identified 14 such markets.

The plan includes a third reform—a proposal to transfer responsibility for running military treatment facilities in the Washington, D.C., area to a new directorate within the Defense Health Agency.

That new unit would succeed the Medical Joint Task Force for the National Capital Region, which oversees Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and Fort Belvoir Community Hospital.

The plan still needs to be reviewed by Congress and the Government Accountability Office. According to a report from American Forces Press Service, if the proposed changes are approved, they probably would not be instituted until early 2013.

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