During my transition from active duty to the civilian world I found myself in the position of deciding just how I would procure health insurance for my family and I. As a uniform wearing Marine my healthcare was covered by the local aid station, clinic, or hospital, but once I hung it all up that option vanished when my ID card switched from “Active” to “Retired”.
I have never had to make such a decision before; after all, medical care was part of the benefits package for those in uniform. Fortunately, at my local Naval Hospital there was a TRICARE service center. In the TRICARE service center was a real live human being who was both cheerful and helpful, and after spending a half hour or so with her I was able to make the right decisions and sign up for TRICARE Prime so that both my family and I would be covered once my HMMWV chariot turned into a pumpkin.
Unfortunately, that service center and the 188 others that are spread across the continental United States will be closing next year. They will be replaced by a call center. Although TRICARE states that customers will receive better service by calling a 1-800 number I somehow doubt it. There is nothing like sitting down with a real person to get your questions fully answered.
Sadly the cheerful and helpful lady who helped me out will likely be out of a job next year. Although TRICARE administrators project a $250 million savings by cutting the centers, the cost in terms of jobs and true customer satisfaction are going to be high.
At least in my humble opinion.