Your health is a big deal

  • Published
  • By Col. Michael Burke
  • 21st Medical Group commander
Greetings fellow Knights! TriWest Healthcare Alliance will see its last TRICARE patient March 31, 2013. After nearly 17 years as our steadfast partner in health, they'll hand over the TRICARE West Region and 2.9 million Department of Defense beneficiaries to UnitedHealthcare Military and Veterans Services. Although we'll soon say good-bye to a respectable partner in TriWest, we're welcoming an equally esteemed, experienced and capable healthcare provider in UMVS. I am confident this hand off will go smoothly for our patients and in UMVS' ability to take on our unique healthcare needs without skipping a beat.

Here are some numbers. UMVS will commence healthcare services for our TRICARE West Region's 2.9 million patients April 1, 2013. Our West Region is expansive, covering 22 states, 2.27 million square miles and includes 185,000 healthcare providers, 22,000 primary care managers and 133 military treatment facilities. The potential contract value is estimated at more than $20 billion.

These numbers are simply staggering and, as you can imagine, we are taking on an extensive transition. Thankfully, we venture this change with a new partner that is no stranger to big challenges. UnitedHealthcare is one of the largest health providers in the country. They deliver healthcare products and services to approximately 70 million Americans. They contract with 4,965 hospitals and 735,000 physicians nationwide. In fact, a substantial number of providers in our west region already have existing arrangements with UnitedHealthcare. Specifically, 2,429 hospitals, 326,000 physicians and healthcare professionals, and 450 convenience care clinics in our region partner with UnitedHealthcare. Having an extensive network already in place will greatly ease our transition.

Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to meet with UMVS' chief operating officer. We spent a few hours chewing on transition topics like network development and adequacy, contingency planning, customer service, disease and case management, referral management, claims adjudication and a host of other items. UMVS has assembled a leadership team comprised of several prior-service military healthcare system experts, they've done their homework and already know our system remarkably well. Further, it is clear that they join us in our "Quad Aim," focused on experience of care, population health, per capita cost and readiness. Their stated values of integrity, compassion, relationships, innovation and performance nest nicely with ours. They will complement our capabilities perfectly, and together we'll achieve our Air Force Medical Service vision of moving from a healthcare system to a "system of health."

Our top priority is to ensure a smooth transition with UMVS on behalf of our service members, families and retired beneficiaries who entrust us with their care. This is a daunting challenge and will not be easy. But, please rest assured, we are working this diligently and "...we will not falter, and, we will not fail!"

Here are a few take-aways for you to please consider: the DOD's contract with TriWest Healthcare Alliance remains in place through March 31, 2013. They remain committed to taking care of us until the last patient is seen that day. Our TRICARE program and covered medical services remain unchanged; there will be no effect on pharmacy, dental or TRICARE for Life contracts. Most importantly, we will successfully complete this transition for our patients, whom it truly is our privilege to serve!