The conference report for the fiscal 2019 defense authorization bill retains language from the House version of the legislation barring DOD from closing any of its 680 hospital and clinics until the military services have finished transferring them to the Defense Health Agency (DHA). Conferees revised some of the original language, though, and the deadline for the services to transfer their military treatment facilities has been moved back to Sept. 30, 2021, a three-year delay from the existing deadline; the House version had moved the transfer deadline back two years.
DOD established the DHA in 2013 to assume management responsibility for numerous functions of the military health system. The FY 2017 defense authorization bill set Oct. 1, 2018, as the deadline for the new agency to be responsible for the administration of each treatment facility, covering budgetary matters, information technology, and health care administration and management. That measure also called for the department to prepare an implementation plan detailing how the transition would eliminate duplicative activities carried out by the DHA and the services, and maximize efficiencies in the activities carried out by the DHA.
Section 711 prohibits the department from closing or downsizing any military treatment facility “that addresses the medical needs of beneficiaries and the community in the vicinity of such facility, center, hospital, or care center” until it submits to the congressional defense committees a report describing the methodology and criteria the department will use to close or downsize treatment facilities in conjunction with the transition. Closures connected to the transition also are barred from being carried out until 90 days after DOD informs Congress about the particular action.
Army photo by Sgt. Micah Merrill