Military Treatment Facilities:

Emergency Department Utilization

HEHS-00-63R: Published: Mar 13, 2000. Publicly Released: Mar 13, 2000.

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Stephen P. Backhus
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on whether military active duty service personnel, retirees, and their dependents not enrolled in the Department of Defense's (DOD) TRICARE program, are obtaining nonemergency medical care through Military Treatment Facilities (MTF) emergency departments, focusing on the: (1) services' efforts to determine requirements for MTF emergency departments; (2) type of care emergency departments are providing; and (3) extent to which emergency department patients were TRICARE enrollees.

GAO noted that: (1) recent Army, Navy, and Air Force evaluations have identified 17 MTF emergency departments that possibly could be closed because their services could be provided more efficiently through civilian emergency departments; (2) as a result, some emergency departments have been closed and others are scheduled for closure in the near future; (3) however, DOD officials stated that some MTF emergency departments will always be needed for training or readiness needs or because civilian facilities are unavailable; (4) most of the health care services provided in MTF emergency departments are for nonemergency or nonurgent conditions--a situation consistent with that at civilian-sector emergency departments; (5) nonetheless, according to civilian and military emergency department personnel, this patient workload keeps staff busy and trained while waiting for emergencies; (6) in four of the six MTFs GAO reviewed, more than 40 percent of the emergency department users were beneficiaries not enrolled in TRICARE Prime; and (7) although these nonenrolled personnel may be using emergency departments to gain access to free military health care, information is not available to determine how much nonemergency care was provided to nonenrolled beneficiaries.

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