This blog is the most recent in a series helping members of the Coast Guard family understand how to use their TRICARE benefits. The blog series will continue every Monday, right here on Coast Guard All Hands.
Written by Cmdr. Paul Fawcett
As part of a Coast Guard family you can be stationed in a variety of remote locations around the United States. From isolated communities on the Great Lakes to smaller towns on the Gulf Coast, Coast Guard postings can take you to less populated areas. While these assignments can have their advantages; stunning scenery and friendly new neighbors, finding the medical care you need can sometimes be a challenge. This article will help you navigate accessing care in remote locations.
How Do I Find a Doctor?
In most remote locations you will be placed on the TRICARE Prime Remote plan, which allows you more choice in selecting your provider. See our previous blog post for in depth detail on TRICARE Prime Remote (TPR). If you are enrolled to (TPR) you can receive care from any TRICARE authorized provider. There are several ways that you can find a doctor; you can call your regional TRICARE contractor and ask for assistance in locating a provider in your area. You can also search the contractor’s website for available providers in your area. It may also be helpful to ask other Coast Guard families assigned to your area where they receive medical care and call those providers to see if they are accepting new patients.
How Long Should I Have to Wait to See My Doctor?
Sometimes accessing care in remote locations can be difficult, even if you have a provider. However, TRICARE has access to care standards and it’s important that you know them. For routine care appointments you should not have to wait more than 7 days for an appointment for specialty care you should not have to wait more than 4 weeks. If your circumstances for your specialty care are urgent your provider can mark your referral that way and you may be seen sooner. If you are trying to get an appointment and you cannot you should contact your regional TRICARE contractor for assistance. If you need care urgently you should go to the Emergency Room, if you have an acute condition such as strep throat or a sprain or strain, you can visit an Urgent Care Center.
I’m in a remote location and I’m having difficulty Accessing Care.
You are entitled to appropriate medical care and you should not accept the fact that just because you’re in a remote location that you won’t get care. If you can’t find a provider there are several things you can do; call your regional TRICARE contractor for help. You should let your Coast Guard unit know, either your Command Master Chief, Unit Ombudsman or Executive Officer. It’s important to determine if there is a widespread problem. For problems affecting many families, your unit should contact the Health Safety and Work Life Service Center. A staff member and/or the regional contractor may visit your unit to help. You can also contact the Health Benefits Assistance Line at 1-800-9-HBA-HBA or CGHBA@uscg.mil during business hours for individual help.
What if I have to Travel for Specialty Care
If you have to travel for specialty care a distance that is greater than 100 miles from your primary care manager to your specialty care provider, you may be entitled to reimbursement for travel expenses. Active duty members receive orders from their unit, dependents receive reimbursement from the Prime Travel Benefit program. See our previous blog post for more information about this program. You can also email or call the PTB team at D11-HSWLSC-PTBREQUEST@USCG.MIL or (510) 637-1214.
There are resources available to help you access care in remote locations, take advantage of these tools to help your family access the care you are entitled to.
TRICARE Regional contractors:
For other TRICARE questions, please contact the USCG Health Benefits Assistance line at 1-800-9-HBA-HBA or CGHBA@uscg.mil . You can also leave us a comment below.