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Photo Caption: Jessica Etienne, a beneficiary services branch health care assistant who works in the Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center TRICARE Services Center, at Fort Hood, Texas, talks to a patient about her special medical needs and services that are available to her.

January 14, 2014
By
Jim Garamone, American Forces Press Service
Source: www.army.mil

WASHINGTON (Jan. 13, 2014) -- TRICARE military health plan service centers will end administrative walk-in services in the United States on April 1, Pentagon officials said today.

While the 189 facilities will stop taking walk-ins, beneficiaries can accomplish any administrative task online or by phone, said Pentagon spokesman Col. Steve Warren.

TRICARE service centers overseas are not affected, Warren said.

"The change will not -- let me repeat that -- will not affect any TRICARE medical benefit or health care service," he emphasized. "What it will do is allow the department to save $250 million over the next five years, allowing TRICARE to invest in more important services."

Fifty percent of the visits to the centers are for in- and out-processing and requests to change primary care providers, and the rest involve billing-related questions, officials said. The Defense Department spends roughly $50 million a year on these services, and this type of customer service can be handled more efficiently by phone or online, they added.

TRICARE gets about 38,000 page views per day on its website. Officials have run tests to ensure the website and call center can handle the expected increase in volume.

The TRICARE service centers have been around since the 1990s, and contractors staff them, Warren said. "This is being driven by the fact that technology has gotten so much better," he added. Customers who need the type of assistance that was being done in these walk-in service centers can quickly and efficiently receive help online or via phone, he said.

Beneficiaries can get more information and sign up for updates at http://www.tricare.mil/tsc.