Survey: Prescription costs, co-pays behind plunge in satisfaction with Tricare

Eric Dehm
August 10, 2018 - 2:26 pm

U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Rachel Yates

When several changes to Tricare went into effect on January 1, including increases to co-pays and prescription fills, it was predicted by many in the veteran community that the programs customers would not be happy, particularly because so few seemed to even know they were coming. Now, those predictions have come true.

 A recent survey by the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA) confirms that satisfaction with both Tricare Prime and Tricare Select has dropped in all categories, with concern over those cost increases causing the most consternation. 

The response to prescription cost seems to best illustrate why we are seeing negative changes in attitude towards the government's health insurance program for retirees and the families of active duty service members. A pre-increase survey in December 2017 showed Tricare beneficiaries were "largely unconcerned" about affording their meds, which makes sense as most prescriptions were provided at no cost. While going from $0 to $7 per prescription filled might not seem significant, it's important to remember that many retirees have several monthly prescriptions and a fixed income. The new survey shows over 50 percent of the 8,500-plus who took the survey after the increases are now "somewhat concerned" or "very concerned" about their ability to afford their medications.

MOAA's Director of Government Relations for Health Affairs Kathy Beasley says the increases in prescriptions are for prescriptions received through mail-order or picked up at a civilian pharmacy. She says this has led some to travel long distances to an on-base military pharmacy, where the fills are still offered at zero cost. Unfortunately, that's not a convenient option, or an option at all, for many retirees. 

Beasley says that while Tricare is a "robust" program that's a great benefit for retirees and families, the survey shows some clear, and new, areas of concern following the changes made for the new year. In fact, a third of the retiree respondents under age 65 are now unhappy with Tricare due to their overall cost shares.

"That was a big change from what we saw previously," Beasley said during an appearance on the Morning Briefing radio show. "Where people were generally satisfied with what they were having to pay. So that was a change and with the medication piece all beneficiary categories were dissatisfied."

The one aspect of Tricare that received an overwhelmingly positive response is Tricare For Life, the program for those over 65 who are also receiving Medicare.  

You can hear the full interview with Beasley focusing on the MOAA Tricare survey below.

To listen later, click Share and select Download from the available options.

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