Recently Pacific Medical Centers (PacMed) and Providence Health Services announced that they would affiliate. Here’s a link to the PacMed/Providence spin on the deal.
PacMed, which operates nine medical clinics around the Puget Sound area, provides care for military members and their families under a contract with Tricare, a military insurance program run by the government.
Tricare has different types of plans, but generally there are two main plans — Tricare PRIME and Tricare Standard. Because we live in Washington State with such a large military presence, military members and their families in WA have access to enhanced medical services through Tricare PRIME, which is an HMO-type program. With Tricare PRIME, as with most HMO type programs, your provider options are limited, but you can get 100% coverage without copays or deductibles. The Tricare PRIME options are available in limited geographic areas.
Pacific Medical Centers provides these enhanced health care services in the Puget Sound area for active duty family members and retired servicemembers and their families. Active duty servicemembers are seen by military doctors on base.
Before news of the takeover of Pacific Medical Centers by Providence, if a military-connected family member or veteran needed a hospital or specialty care, Pacific Medical Centers contracted with Virginia Mason and would refer patients there.
A retired military person might pay more for Tricare Standard so he or she can go directly to Virginia Mason for medical care rather than having to go to Pacific Medical first and get a referral. But many retired military (especially enlisted and their family members) are not in a position to afford Tricare Standard and will instead elect Tricare PRIME and thus be limited to Pacific Medical Centers (and soon Providence) for their health care. Which means that now, members who opt for Tricare PRIME will be limited to Providence for hospital or specialty care.
The bottom line is that with the Providence “affiliation” with Pacific Medical Centers, active duty family members and retired members and their families will have to pay more for specialty or hospital services if they want care that is unrestricted by religious doctrine.
It’s troubling enough that civilians would see health care options restricted because of the unchecked expansion of health care that is subject to religious oversight. It’s an outrage that military families here in Washington should find their care options limited to providers of a specific faith tradition when they need hospitalization or specialty care. When government and/or tax dollars are involved, patients have a right to be free of religious oversight and/or interference, and no one, especially our military families, should ever have to pay a financial penalty for choosing a nonreligious provider.