Sick Military Kids Deserve Better Access to Medical Care
For years, our Association has fought for better access to urgent care. When military families call the Military Treatment Facility (MTF) to make an appointment for a sick child, too many are told there are no appointments available. Or that they can’t get a referral to an urgent care in the community. And too many are left with the Emergency Room as their only option for treatment of acute medical problems, like ear infections and strep throat – conditions that aren’t emergencies, but must be treated promptly.
NMFA was instrumental in highlighting this issue during the Military Health System (MHS) review. When former Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel stated in his MHS Review action plan memo that “no patient should be told to call back the next day for an appointment,” we agreed and were encouraged to see top Department of Defense (DoD) leadership acknowledge this widespread problem.
You can imagine our surprise when the President’s 2016 Budget was released and the health care proposal included a misuse fee for Emergency Room care. Our Association opposes an Emergency Room misuse fee until DoD improves access to urgent care.
Our Government Relations team has submitted a statement to the House and Senate Armed Services Committees detailing why we’re opposed to it. We have also met with Committee staff to explain why an ER misuse fee is grossly unfair under the current circumstances and how it will deter families from seeking needed medical care when the Emergency Room is their only option.
Our goal is not just the defeat of the ER misuse fee. We want improved access to acute care appointments for all military families using MTFs. We have met with Defense Health Agency officials to discuss how they can improve their access measures to better track this issue. We have also suggested improvements to the appointment system that will direct families to the Nurse Advice Line, where urgent care referrals can be issued.
We need your help! We want to assure Congress and DoD officials that the personal stories and experiences we’ve shared are not isolated incidents. Have you encountered problems making an MTF appointment for a sick family member? Please tell us about it and include the approximate time frame and the installation or MTF (we are most interested in recent situations to show this is a current problem). We will compile your stories and share with Congress and senior DoD leadership. Or, consider signing our petition to oppose an ER misuse fee.
Posted April 20, 2015