NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Reservists on Active Military Duty Find Roadblocks to Insured Health Care

March 31, 2003

When a reservist is called up for active duty, the law guarantees that person will have his or her old job waiting upon return. But the law doesn't require that employers keep paying for that person's health insurance.

Many larger companies do continue the payments, but most smaller firms can't afford the costs. In response, the Defense Department created Tricare.

  • Tricare would rank among the nation's largest health insurers if it were a private company.
  • More than eight million people are enrolled -- including active-duty soldiers and their families, as well as military retirees and their families.
  • Its core is a network of hospitals and clinics at military bases nationwide -- where active-duty personnel and their families can usually be treated quickly.

Tricare's drawbacks, however, irk some military personnel:

  • Families who reside a distance from a military base may have difficulty obtaining covered care -- because few civilian doctors will accept Tricare, due to its bureaucracy and low fees.
  • According to Tricare figures in 2002, fewer than 40 percent of hospitals and 30 percent of doctors in the United States participate in the Tricare network, although some may accept Tricare insurance on a case-by-case basis.
  • Patients seeing a nonnetwork doctor must pay 50 percent of the cost -- plus the deductible.
  • Patients must select a primary-care physician and go through that doctor to see a specialists.

And some care isn't included -- including eyeglasses and family dental care.

Source: Peter Landers, "Health Care as War Casualty," March 31, 2003, Wall Street Journal.

For text (WSJ subscription required),,SB104906985147671600-search,00.html


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