Agencies call for standardization in military healthcare

A series of new reports illustrate the need to standardize military healthcare, according to the Washington Post.

The Military Health System's healthcare cost the Pentagon $51.4 billion in fiscal 2012, which makes up 9.7 percent of military spending, compared to $19 billion, or 6 percent of spending, in 2001. That number may reach $65 billion by fiscal 2017 and $92 billion by 2030, according to Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projections.

The fact that different branches of the armed forces have separate healthcare spheres may contribute to these costs, the article suggests. For example, the Army, Navy and Air Force have separate surgeons general and each one oversees a branch healthcare system.

eparate surgeons general and each one oversees a branch healthcare system

Nine years ago, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) said the Defense Department could "achieve economies of scale and improve [healthcare] delivery by combining, realigning or otherwise changing selected support functions." A 2011 GAO report noted the Pentagon lacked a "central command authority or single entity accountable for minimizing costs and achieving efficiencies."

In 2013, Congress established the Defense Health Agency to align and standardize information technology, facility planning, contracting, budget management and medical logistics between the different branches' medical systems. The government could save more than $1 billion over the next six years just by joint implementing facility planning, the Pentagon told Congress last June, according to the article.

However, the branches even have varied healthcare policies for Wounded Warriors programs for service personnel injured post-Sept. 11, according to a recent report from the Defense Department's Inspector General. For example, the program admits Army soldiers if their condition "demanded at least six months of complex medical management" but the Marines require just 90 days, according to the report.

Although military healthcare spending is on the rise, sequestration has hit military hospitals particularly hard, forcing some patients to seek help elsewhere or delay treatment, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

To learn more:
- read the Post article
- read the CBO projections (.pdf)
- here's the GAO report
- here's the IG report (.pdf)