Colorado Springs News, Sports & Business

Gazette Premium Content Lamborn urges council to make TriCare major issue in Memorial decision

ANDREW WINEKE Updated: December 12, 2011 at 12:00 am

U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn urged the Colorado Springs City Council to make a commitment to accepting TriCare a core standard in deciding who wins the lease for city-owned Memorial Health System.

“I want to make sure it’s at the forefront of your consideration,” the congressman told the council.

The 5th Congressional District has the second-highest number of TriCare beneficiaries of any district in the country, Lamborn told the council, and Memorial accepts more TriCare patients than any other non-military institution west of the Mississippi River.

Continuing to accept the military insurance program for a complete range of medical services is important not just for the 120,000 TriCare enrollees in El Paso County, but as a visible sign of the community’s commitment to serving the military, Lamborn said. In other areas, the availability of TriCare services has been a contributing factor when the military has evaluated which bases to close. He said the language in the city’s request for proposals on Memorial, which asks for a commitment to accept TriCare along with Medicare, Medicaid and the Colorado Indigent Care Program, is not strong enough.

“I want assurances that this excellent and high level is maintained,” Lamborn said.

Council President Scott Hente, a retired Air Force officer, said he fully agreed with the importance of TriCare to the community.

“I am religious in my devotion to TriCare,” he said.

Council President Pro Tem Jan Martin, who heads the Memorial task force, said that bidders’ commitment to TriCare is a major consideration.

“This has been one of the areas that’s upper-most in my mind,” she said.

Martin said she thought getting a high level of commitment should not be a problem whoever winds up winning the Memorial lease, given the fierceness of the bidding.

“We’re working with five bidders — they’ll all pretty much do whatever we ask at this point,” Martin said.

Martin asked Lamborn in turn to make sure that TriCare funding is kept as high a level as possible, given that it is not a money-maker for Memorial and that further cuts would only make it more difficult to continue providing those services. Lamborn said there appeared to be bipartisan to fix a potential funding cut in TriCare and other government health insurance.

Jim Moore, the chairman of Memorial’s board, said that Memorial does not deny any service to TriCare recipients. The program doesn’t pay as quickly as Medicare and it doesn’t pay as well, he said, but it’s a vital part of what Memorial does.

“TriCare is critically important to us from the standpoint of our commitment to the community,” Moore said.

Lamborn said he isn’t opposed to or supporting any of the bidders, but wants to make sure the TriCare insurance question is not lost in the shuffle as the task force makes a decision. The task force plans to recommend one of the five lease proposals to City Council by Dec. 27. Voters would have to approve any change to Memorial’s ownership or governance.

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