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Tricare's West Region contractor shakes up its leadership

Jun. 12, 2013 - 05:50PM   |  
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UnitedHealthcare Military & Veterans Services has ousted its chief executive officer following the company’s rocky transition in assuming management of the Tricare West Region contract two months ago.

UnitedHealthcare Military & Veterans CEO Lori McDougal has been transferred to another United HealthCare subsidiary while Tina Jonas, who served as the Defense Department’s chief financial officer from 2004 to 2008, was named to a new position of president, according to company spokesman Bruce Jasurda.

Jonas had been working as president of Logistics Health, another United HealthCare subsidiary.

The leadership changes follow a transition period marked by delays in customer care, problems with referrals and issues with payments to providers in the 21-state Tricare West region.

The concerns were so pervasive that the Pentagon on May 2 took the unprecedented step of waiving referral authorization requirements for Tricare Prime beneficiaries in the West region.

Jasurda did not link the personnel moves specifically to the problems with the Tricare contract. Rather, he said the changes were part of an “ongoing commitment” to best serve military families, retirees and their families.

“We made a commitment to the Defense Department that we are going to continue to examine our structure and make sure we have people with the expertise and experience to properly service the beneficiaries of the West Region,” Jasurda said June 12.

Also new to the UnitedHealthcare Military & Veterans payroll is retired Vice Adm. John Mateczun, who completed his military career last year as commander of the Joint Task Force National Capital Region, overseeing the consolidation of the National Naval Medical Center and Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

Mateczun, a former Army explosive ordnance disposal staff sergeant, Navy psychiatrist and administrator who also served as Tricare’s first chief medical officer during his 41 years on active duty, will serve as UnitedHealthcare Military & Veterans chief medical officer.

Jasurda said the company continues to work to improve customer relations and has resolved its issues with referrals and customer care as well as meeting Tricare standards for paying claims.

The referral waiver remains in place through June 18; the Pentagon is weighing whether it needs to extend the waiver period, but a Tricare spokesman said the referrals backlog has been cleared.

“Beneficiary complaints regarding service have dwindled,” said Tricare spokesman Austin Camacho.

Tricare officials declined to comment on UnitedHealthcare’s leadership changes, saying they are concerned only with “performance, not any individual involved.”

UnitedHealthcare is the first new company to take over a Tricare contract since the military health program’s regions were consolidated in 2004.

It was awarded the Tricare West region contract, worth up to $21 billion over the next five years, in July 2012 after a prolonged contract award and protest process that began in 2009.

That year, the company was given the contract to manage the Tricare South region but the decision later was overturned, opening up a chance for UnitedHealthcare to bid for the West region contract against TriWest Healthcare Alliance.

It won the decision and TriWest officially passed the baton on April 1.■

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