Tricare’s Alternative Care Coverage Is Seriously Overdue for a Check-Up

March 29, 2019

It’s the common story of increasing frustrations with Tricare. Over brunch, one of my military spouse friends was telling me all about her experience with alternative care coverage hurdles. Prior to marrying her service member, she was under a civilian health care plan and maintaining her routine chiropractic adjustment schedule, which she’d been receiving due to back problems that have troubled her since she was in high school.

But, she never expected to be left high and dry when she married into a Tricare plan, forcing her to begin paying steep out-of-pocket fees if she wanted to continue the care she’d long been accustomed to. The same care that was ordered by Congress in 2000 to be offered to active-duty troops for free, if available of course, at military hospitals.

Granted, that’s because low back pain is one of the leading causes of disability among U.S. military personnel. Not to mention, one could say regarding a spouse’s treatment, “Well, he or she can always attempt to get a referral to a physical therapist instead.” If that’s the case, it’s important to note that while those specialists treat many of the same conditions as chiropractors, the perspective and approach they offer is uniquely different to achieve a positive outcome for their clients.

No matter where you stand on this issue, however, I think we can all agree that military dependents deserve better when it comes to alternative care options and coverage—from chiropractic to acupuncture, naturopathic, and more. It’s clear that outdated policies and coverage benefits are seriously overdue for a check-up.

Yet you may be questioning if this is a topic worth discussing. Reason being, year after year, legislation is offered “to require the Secretary of Defense to develop and implement a plan to provide chiropractic health care services and benefits for dependents, retirees, and survivors”—only for it to continually fizzle out before gaining momentum.

So, why keep striving for change in this particular arena?

Because in Blue Star Families’ 2018 Military Family Lifestyle Survey, military spouse respondents reported that having alternative care options (e.g., chiropractic care, acupuncture) fully covered was the top improvement they wanted to see in health care benefits.

Concerns of Tricare

Thousands were surveyed in Blue Star Families’ annual Military Family Lifestyle Survey and these were the top concerns.

Now, if history shows that attempts to make positive improvements to Tricare coverage haven’t been successful, what’s being done to turn that around and ensure the military community’s concerns are heard loud and clear?

As far as Blue Star Families’ efforts go, we’ve shared the feedback we obtained in our survey with the Defense Health Agency, further amplifying military family respondents’ voices regarding changes and suggested improvements to Tricare. And while that action most likely won’t be the sole spark that ignites a positive shift, it’s an important stepping stone to enhance military families’ quality of life. That’s our ultimate mission.

Essentially, only time will tell if Tricare’s alternative care coverage will receive its long-overdue check-up. But, facing these numerous hurdles isn’t something we merely have to grin and bear. When military families join forces to speak up about our experiences, powerful, positive change can occur.

Make Your Military Family’s Challenges Heard

Blue Star Families’ annual Military Family Lifestyle Survey is an opportunity for military families like yours to speak up regarding the challenges you face, such as Tricare benefits. When you make your voice heard, we can identify common issues and present them to decision makers to effect change and improve the quality of life within the military community.

Explore what was important to military families in 2018 here.

For the opportunity to share your challenges and experiences when the 2019 survey opens for participation, become a member of Blue Star Families today!