New TRICARE program to boost dental readiness of Reservists

New TRICARE program to boost dental readiness of Reservists – Brief Article

Kathleen T. Rhem

ARLINGTON, Va. (American Forces Press Service)–TRICARE’s new dental insurance program will help ensure reservists are ready to deploy when they’re called, DoD medical officials said.

“We want to encourage a higher level of dental health and dental readiness than we saw during Desert Storm/Desert Shield,” Navy dentist Dr. (Capt.) Lawrence McKinley said. McKinley is senior consultant for dentistry for the TRICARE Management Activity and the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs here.

The new TRICARE Dental Plan went into effect Feb. 1. It replaces the TRICARE Selected Reserve Dental Program and provides reservists and their family members the same dental benefits package that is available to families of active duty service members.

The new program will also help the reserve components meet a 1998 DoD requirement that says they must document an annual dental screening for all their service members.

Martin said the requirement for yearly screenings poses several problems. “Most reserve components don’t have the infrastructure to perform annual dental exams,” he said.

Even for those units that have embedded dental assets, spending valuable drill weekends providing routine screenings can degrade their skills.

“If they’re not part of a field unit, their go-to-war mission is to provide emergency care, not screenings,” said Martin.

He also noted that the reserves are a geographically diverse force. Only 20 percent to 25 percent of reserve units are located within a reasonable distance to a DoD medical facility.

Increasing readiness isn’t the only reason DoD officials wanted to make the TRICARE Dental Plan available to reservists and their families. “The total-force concept is important. We’re all one family,” McKinley said. “We wanted to make this quality-of-life benefit accessible to the reserve community as well as the active duty community.”

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