The transition of management and administration responsibilities of medical treatment facilities from the military services to the Defense Health Agency (DHA) began last month as a small set of hospitals and clinics in the southeastern United States came under control of the five-year-old agency. The restructuring, which encompasses 59 hospitals and 360 clinics across the nation and at overseas bases, is set to take until Sept. 30, 2021, after Congress moved the deadline back three years, to preserve medical readiness in light of the complexity associated with the transfers, reports Stars and Stripes.
The three-year extension, included in the fiscal 2019 defense authorization bill, came in response to a request from DOD in June. “This is probably the biggest transformation of the military health system in history,” or at least for decades, said Dr. Terry Adirim, deputy assistant secretary of health services policy and oversight. “We needed the time to do the planning and then begin to make sure all functions coming under the DHA are successfully transferred. We thought doing this phased approach would reduce risk and give us more time to ensure we get it right,” she said.
The changeover is projected to save $200 million and reduce staffing by 25 percent at medical headquarters across the military. “This transition is really impacting mostly headquarters,” Adirim said. “[Military health care beneficiaries are] not going to see any difference in the level of service or care except, we hope, eventually they will see improvement and a more standard [care] experience.”
Army photo by Marcy Sanchez