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Tricare center moves, aims for one-stop convenience

by Staff Sgt. Chance Babin
Thunderbolt staff writer

More than 50 people gathered under the shade of a lone oak tree on Bayshore Dr., to celebrate the opening of the new Tricare Service Center here on base. The new TSC, located next to the hospital held its ribbon cutting ceremony May 22, but officially opened May 16.

The new center combines the existing location on base with the former location off base on Gandy Blvd that closed May 15. The two locations merged as an additional wing was added to the existing location on base.

"Merging the two centers is going to alleviate a lot of confusion for our beneficiaries and patient population because there is only one place to go now to get all of their referral and Tricare managed questions answered," said Maj. Kim Schmidt, Tricare flight commander. "We want this to be a one-stop shop for every managed care need our patients might have." This one stop location applies to many beneficiaries. The TSC here has the largest single site beneficiary population throughout the Air Force.

"We've got over 100,000 beneficiaries in our catchment area with approximately 37,000 enrolled here with the medical group," Schmidt said. The catchment area is considered anything inside a 30-mile radius.

Construction on the new wing of the building started more than a year ago and the center has some additional features such as referral management, utilization management, health benefits advice, a claims center and offers answers to any coalition questions. The building also has a large classroom, improved patient privacy in offices and larger doorways for disabled and elderly patient office access.

"What you're seeing is not just a building, it is a tangible, very physical evidence of the maturation of Tricare," said Col. Alan Newton, 6th Medical Group commander. "This is a very important day for the community. Bringing everybody together under one roof makes us more efficient and more responsible. It makes us able to say, 'yes' all the time. It allows us to put people before policy."

The moving of a TSC to base is not unusual; in fact it is actually getting to be the norm. There are only two sites that are not currently on bases in the region.

"This is the eighth TSC we've moved on base," said Dick Rushmore, the Region 3 director for Humana Health Services. "We moved on base for one reason and one reason only, to service the beneficiaries. That's why we spend the money and this building is going to do that."

For Donald Fugate, a retired Navy beneficiary from Haines City, Fla., the consolidation of the office is a positive thing. "It's next to the hospital and it's easier to get to," he said. "You don't have to go to Gandy and back here again."




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