The Defense Department is doing an about-face on a major component of reforms it launched seven years ago to reduce medical care costs, abandoning a plan to push family members and military retirees to private-sector care.
In a memo sent last month to senior Pentagon leaders, Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks outlined an effort to “re-attract” beneficiaries to military hospitals and clinics — at least 7% of those now receiving medical care through Tricare, the DoD's private health program, by Dec. 31, 2026.
Hicks said certain elements of the DoD's health system overhaul, which was mandated by Congress in 2017, have left military treatment facilities, or MTFs, “chronically understaffed” and unable to deliver timely care to all patients.
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The goal for the new plan would be to review current staffing and potentially shift providers among facilities, or add new personnel as needed in order to provide improved access to care and bring back patients, according to the memo, provided Monday to Military.com by request.
In the memo, Hicks said the circumstances at military hospitals have not only affected beneficiaries, they have hindered providers, depriving them of opportunities to maintain their skills.
“Realignment of medical personnel, coupled with a challenging health care economy and ambitious private-sector care…