Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Pentagon Expands Mental Health Care for Troops, Families

The Department of Defense yesterday issued a final rule broadly expanding access to mental health and substance use disorder treatment for military service members. The rule covers services for 9.4 million active and retired military service members and their families under TRICARE.

The rule eliminates quantitative and nonquantitative limitations on mental health and substance use disorder care. All inpatient mental health day limits were eliminated, as were annual and lifetime limitations on outpatient services and substance use disorder treatment.

Copayments for mental health visits were cut from the current $25 to $12, the existing standard for general medical and surgical care.

Also, substance use disorder treatment will now include outpatient medication-assisted protocols, enabling qualified TRICARE contract providers to use buprenorphine and other medications.

The rule also now permits coverage of all non-surgical care in treatment of gender dysphoria, a development arising from the decision to permit transgender people to serve openly in the armed forces.

Overall, the new rule represents a step forward for service members and their families, but their effects need to be documented better, said former U.S. Army psychiatrist Charles Engel, M.D., a senior scientist at the RAND Corporation in Boston.

“What works for those in uniform may be in tension with what is best for non-uniformed military health system beneficiaries,” said Engel. “There are lots of complex pieces to these changes, but there has been little large, independent health care services analysis of the system.”

More information on this topic can be found in the book Care of Military Service Members, Veterans, and Their Families from APA Publishing. APA members may purchase the book at a discount here.

(Image: iStock/forever63)