Health services on post are designed solely to serve Fort Knox’s active-duty population and soon no longer will be available to retirees.
A town hall meeting has been scheduled Tuesday by Ireland Army Health Clinic to discuss transitioning retirees’ primary care to the civilian health care network. For veterans, it means finding a new doctor and, in some cases, being introduced to new concepts such as insurance co-pays.
The clinic, which is being built to replace the former hospital at Fort Knox, released a statement Thursday explaining that U.S. Army Health Facilities Planning Agency clinic construction guidelines and Title 10 Public Law only allow room for current active-duty soldiers and their families. The new building, scheduled to open in 2020, will concentrate on military readiness and support.
Col. Kevin Bass, commander of the Ireland Clinic and Fort Knox Medical Department Activity, said in a news release that Army medicine continues to build medical readiness.
“Military treatment facilities are able to see retirees on a space-available basis and Ireland has done that for years,” Bass said. “But with a new clinic being built and the restrictions placed on its construction, we will not have the space to see retirees when it’s finished.”
Already, approximately 2,000 retirees have been found new physicians or medical services in neighboring communities. As many as 7,500 more could be impacted around the region. The first of these groups of beneficiaries will receive an informational letter by Oct. 1.
The town hall meeting is scheduled from 5 to 7 p.m. Tuesday at American Legion Post 113 on Ring Road in Elizabethtown. In addition to Ireland’s leadership team, representatives of the Veterans Administration and area health networks are expected.
The discussion will cover how to navigate the civilian health care network and tips on finding a doctor. A question-and-answer period is part of the agenda.
The Army announced plans to reduce medical services at Fort Knox in June 2016, based on results of an extensive study to determine workload at its smaller hospitals to understand where hospital verses clinic services were needed.
The status of Ireland, which opened in 1957, changed from hospital to clinic under the Army’s restructuring plans. Among the changes have been elimination of inpatient treatment, the emergency room and obstetrics, and staff who served those departments.
Ireland leadership have formulated a plan to ensure beneficiaries receive timely access to care, according to a statement released by the clinic. Called the Beneficiary Transition Cell, it will act as a bridge between the clinic and network primary care providers to facilitate a smooth transfer of care, according to Tina Birch, chief of the Managed Care Division.
“The BTC will help meet each patient’s needs with items like scheduling a transition appointment with a patient’s current primary care manager. That way we can make sure medications, lab work and referrals are up to date,” she said in a statement. “Other things we can do to assist include coordinating the initial new network PCM appointment, providing benefit information to include Tricare options, cost and claim information, and assisting patients obtain their medical records.”
Birch said she encourages all retirees to contact the cell at 502-624-0278 for a consultation.
“I love the fact that some of our patients are venturing out to the network themselves, but we still want to visit with them at least once,” she said. “A lot of times the new doctor won’t be able to see them immediately and when they do, they will want to review the patient’s records and see them once or twice more before deciding to continue medications or treatments.”
She said the transition cell will ensure patients have an adequate supply of current medication and get a doctor’s appointment for follow-up care at Ireland before they are transitioned to the civilian network.
Also, any retiree who served in active military service might qualify for VA health benefits.
Bass also said an important component in the transition is many beneficiaries are unfamiliar with the use of network providers.
“We have worked closely with many of our network partners to ensure there is complete area support,” Bass said. “So if there is something a beneficiary needs, we have a number of contacts to turn to for help in getting them set up.”