Tricare gears up for flood of calls

Tricare gears up for flood of calls

By Thomas R. Temin

GCN Staff

DEC. 19'The Defense Department's Tricare Management Activity will increase its customer call center staff fourfold as it gears up to handle inquiries from 1.4 million retirees.

When Congress authorized Tricare health benefits for former uniformed service members who reach Medicare eligibility age, it fell to the Military Health System Operations to handle an expected 60,000 calls per week, according to Duaine C. Goodno, MHSO's program director for the call center initiative.

Last Thursday, Goodno said, he asked call center contractor Litton PRC Inc. of McLean, Va., to build out and staff with 60 trained agents a new call center, tentatively to be located in Frostburg, Md. MHSO already operates two call centers, one in Falls Church, Va., and one in Des Moines, Iowa, that handle 3,000 calls per week. Goodno said Litton's orders are to complete the new call center within five weeks.

Tricare will mail brochures detailing the benefits to eligible retirees during the first two weeks of January. Although benefits become available April 1, 2001, Goodno said he expects calls to come flooding in next month.

The Des Moines and Falls Church centers have 5 and 14 agents, respectively, and the Virginia staff will be increased to 75, Goodno said.

MHSO's current call center load comes from two pilot projects involving health benefits for 81,000 current or former soldiers. One project offers supplemental health care benefits to 11,000 former service members and is the one Congress recently expanded to include all retirees. The other pilot offers 70,000 current DOD uniformed employees health benefits under the Federal Employee Health Benefits program. That pilot has two more years to run, and Congress has not decided whether to expand it to all DOD uniforms.

The call centers use an Oracle Corp. database, plus 22 Oracle applications, including Oracle CRM, a customer relations management package. According to Litton PRC's David L. Meyer, a senior manager for health care systems and services, the contractor is planning to migrate the applications from IBM RS/6000 platforms running AIX to hardware from Hewlett-Packard Co. running HP-UX.

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