- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 6, 2005

Dear Sgt. Shaft:

I am an active-duty member who serves as my command’s health benefits advocate for Tricare. After Healthnet took over the North Region, I could do nothing but brag about how well they worked the Tricare system and how good they were for Tricare.

I sang their name up and down and was telling every beneficiary I could about getting into Tricare Prime so they wouldn’t have to worry about paying thousands of dollars for another type of insurance when they had Tricare Prime, especially our retirees. Now I have gotten a problem thrown at me and maybe you can assist.

I recently tried to enroll a newly retired chief and his family in Tricare Prime, as we had Prime providers in our area. About a week or so after we sent in the family’s enrollment, they received a letter telling them they were not in a Tricare Prime service area, and had to either sign for an access waiver, as the closest provider is more than 40 miles away, or use Tricare Standard to keep seeing the network provider they had been seeing for three years.

When I started calling to find out what happened, I was told that Healthnet had grandfathered Humana’s Tricare Prime service areas for a one-year grace period and had changed the Prime service areas after the one year, and we were no longer in a Prime service area. We, the active duty and our family members, qualified for Tricare Prime Remote, but our retirees, their dependents and the dependents who are living in our area while their spouses were deployed were no longer eligible for Tricare Prime, unless they wanted to travel more than an hour away.

I saw your article concerning “Tricare rules baffle beneficiary” and decided that maybe I would share my similar story with you. Hopefully, you can assist me in making sense of why we that serve our country are being denied what we are told we could have for serving our country and now are essentially being punished because we are no longer active duty or living near a military hospital.

Thank you for your time.

Angela

Via the internet

Dear Angela:

I urge the Congress to review this Tricare bureaucratic debacle.

Shaft notes

The Sarge is looking forward to being with Marine Corps Gen. Michael Hagge today at a National Press Club luncheon as he kicks off Marine Corps birthday week. Those interested in attending the luncheon should call Pat Nelson at 202/662-7500.

I ask my fellow members of the Marine Corps family to bow their heads and quietly recite the following prayer:

“O Lord, we have long known that prayer should include confession. Therefore, on behalf of the Marines, I confess their sins: Lord, they’re just not in step with today’s society.

“They are unreasonable in clinging to old-fashioned ideas like patriotism, duty, honor and country.

“They hold radical ideas believing that they are their brother’s keeper and responsible for the Marine on their flank.

“They have been seen standing when colors pass, singing the national anthem at ballgames and drinking toasts to fallen comrades.

“Not only that, they have been observed standing tall, taking charge and wearing their hair unfashionably short.

“They have taken John Kennedy’s words too seriously and are overly concerned with what they can do for their country instead of what their country can do for them.

“They take the Pledge of Allegiance to heart and believe that their oath is to be honored.

“Forgive them, Lord, for being stubborn men and women who hold fast to such old-fashioned values.

“After all, what more can you expect: They’re Marines.”

Send letters to Sgt. Shaft, c/o John Fales, PO Box 65900, Washington, D.C. 20035-5900; fax 301/622-3330; call 202/257-5446; or e-mail [email protected]

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