Defense Department plans to reform the U.S. military health system, which costs almost $50 billion annually and is expected to grow to $70 billion by 2028, are at risk unless additional actions are taken by DOD, according to the Government Accountability Office.

In Feb. 26 testimony before the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Personnel, the GAO's Director of Defense Capabilities and Management Brenda Farrell said that while DOD senior leadership has demonstrated a commitment to reform the military health system and has taken a number of actions to enhance those efforts, "sustained senior leadership attention is needed" to fully develop plans for achieving cost savings.

A November 2013 GAO report identified several areas in DOD’s implementation plan required to ensure the reform effort achieves its goals, including undetermined staffing requirements, unclear cost estimates, and incomplete performance measures. Farrell said that a DOD representative this month indicated that the department has taken action to address the recommendations, but has not completed implementation. 

"GAO continues to believe that it is imperative for DOD to complete these actions so decision makers will have complete information to gauge reform progress," testified Farrell. In the GAO's November report, DOD officials stated that while some efficiencies in the reform effort might be achieved by reducing headquarters staffing levels, the department expected that the greatest cost savings would be realized through a more integrated approach to the military health system, standardization, and the implementation of shared services such as information technology.

According to DOD estimates, the 10 shared services to be implemented as part of the military health system reform effort will require an investment in I.T. capabilities of about $273 million between fiscal years 2014 and 2019. However, Farrell said that "given DOD’s past experience in this area, rising implementation costs are an area of specific concern."

In an effort to create a more integrated and cost effective military health system, the Pentagon established a Defense Health Agency, which officially began operations in October 2013.

Register or login for access to this item and much more

All Health Data Management content is archived after seven days.

Community members receive:
  • All recent and archived articles
  • Conference offers and updates
  • A full menu of enewsletter options
  • Web seminars, white papers, ebooks

Don't have an account? Register for Free Unlimited Access