A new study published this month details that military family children covered by Tricare are more likely to have special health care needs and are more likely to have a behavioral health diagnosis compared to their peers, Military Times reported.
The study, published in the journal Health Affairs, also reports that Tricare-insured children are more likely to receive lower quality health care and are more likely to encounter difficulty with health care access compared to peers covered by commercial insurance, public insurance, or are uninsured.
Tricare, administered by the DOD Military Health Care System, provides private sector health care for military personnel, retirees and their families.
The new study reveals that 28.5% of Tricare-insured children had at least one special health care need compared to 20.2% of their peers, and that 15.7% of children covered by Tricare had a behavioral health diagnosis, compared to 11.6% of children overall.
It is believed to be the first study detailing the prevalence of children with special health care needs and the prevalence of behavioral health care diagnoses in Tricare-insured children, according to the report.
“I think our data suggests, if you’re a healthy kid, the treatment facilities on base do a pretty good job of making sure kids get routine vaccinations, access to urgent care, those types of things,” Dr. David Rubin, co-author of the new study, told Military Times.
“But the moment you have a special health care need, whether it’s behavioral health or a physical health care need, you end up in a cumbersome process trying to identify appropriate specialists and getting prompt access to those specialists. There’s a real urgent need to simplify the ways by which people get prompt access, particularly given the unique lives of military families,” Rubin said.
The study also identifies gaps in the health care needs of military children based on their families’ reports submitted through the survey.
“When there is a need identified, we’ve not yet achieved a level of access and responsiveness that most people would want to provide for military families,” Rubin added.
The military lifestyle only partly explains the differences in access and the quality of care for Tricare-insured children, according to Karen Ruedisuili, government research deputy director at the National Military Family Association (NMFA) and co-author of the report.
Moving from one duty location to another every couple of years would likely present comparatively different health care challenges, she noted.
“But my work with families here at NMFA, and the situations I’ve helped them navigate, has certainly shown me that there are some barriers that military families face when they seek care that are unique either to the direct care system of military hospitals and clinics, or to Tricare,” she said.