Provider Acceptance and Beneficiary Access Under TRICARE's PPO Health Plan

Publisher: Health Affairs, vol. 38, no. 8
Aug 05, 2019
Yonatan Ben-Shalom, Eric Schone, and Richard Bannick

TRICARE provides health benefits to more than nine million beneficiaries (active duty and retired military members and their families). Complaints about access to civilian providers in TRICARE’s preferred provider organization (PPO) plan led Congress to mandate surveys of beneficiaries and providers to identify the extent of the problem and the reasons for it. The beneficiary survey asked about beneficiaries’ perceived access to care, and the provider survey asked about providers’ acceptance of TRICARE patients. TRICARE’s civilian PPO plans are required to maintain provider networks wherever TRICARE’s health maintenance organization option (known as Prime) is offered. For the years 2012–15, we describe beneficiary access and utilization and provider participation in TRICARE’s PPO plans in Prime and non-Prime markets. We also compare individual market rankings for access and acceptance. In both market types, most providers reported participating in TRICARE’s PPO network, and most PPO users reported using network providers. In areas where Prime is not offered, PPO users reported slightly better access, and providers were more likely to accept new PPO patients. Areas with low access and acceptance, or where multiple access measures indicate problems, may be fruitful for in-depth investigation.