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Sometimes it’s Super Obvious Which to Choose
For most of us it’s a no brainer on which we choose. For those that live on post it makes complete sense to use Prime, since the hospital is like half a mile from their home. Others choose Prime because they don’t want to deal with out-of-pocket costs EVER. People living off post may not want the hassle of going through the gate so Select makes sense for them. Or maybe they want the ability to choose their own providers. There are a ton of pros for both options, no matter what way you slice it.
When my husband and I first married I chose TriCare Prime for my health care. We didn’t live on post, but since he deployed immediately after and I wanted the one stop shop feel, it made sense at the time. I found out I was pregnant around this time and I loved TriCare Prime.
That Love Soon Turned to Disillusionment
Unfortunately, that pregnancy was the first of several miscarriages. While I found it an easy process to verify my pregnancy, go to the ER when I lost the baby, and schedule follow-up appointment, I was less than impressed with the care that I received.
There were many times when I felt that my chart wasn’t looked at when I appeared for an appointment. They congratulated me at ultrasounds and then told me they couldn’t find a heartbeat (though I’d miscarried a week prior). They shuffled me between clinics at the hospital, sometimes at the OB sometimes at the PCM clinic, even though they were all OB appointments.
I began wondering what my other options were for providers, but since I was in the middle of a medical issue I didn’t feel comfortable switching my care.
Then I Just Let Time Get Away From Me
By the time I was done with all my follow-up appointments for the complications I experienced with that miscarriage it was time for my husband to come home. Besides the issues I experience with childbearing, I’m relatively healthy. I chose to think about my husband’s redeployment and finally going on our honeymoon.
That meant that the next time I was pregnant, I still had TriCare Prime. I went through the same process of verifying my pregnancy with my Primary Care Manager before scheduling my first obstetrics appointment. While most of my friends (married to civilians) saw their OB/GYN at some point between their positive pregnancy test and 10 weeks gestation, my first appointment wasn’t until 13 weeks gestation. Given my recent miscarriage I found this maddening. Strike 2 for TriCare Prime.
My care was adequate. I advocated for myself enough this time around to make sure that I saw the same provider each time. But is adequate care what anyone looks for when they’re pregnant? Especially after experiencing a loss?
My doctor was kind, if young, and was patient with my constant questions. My husband deployed during that pregnancy and it was nice to talk to people who understood what I went through.
Then Came the Walk Through
The on post medical center became the final nail in TriCare Prime’s coffin. It was like I stepped back in time. While the medical mall (where the clinics are) was modern and bright, the hospital was straight out of 1972. Besides some really ritzy hospitals, most look the same these days. In this hospital it looked like the machines weren’t updated in years and the bassinets and furniture had rips, fade, and missing chunks.
I’d been continually told that I’d have a private room for labor and delivery. Once I was on my tour I found out there were only 4 delivery rooms and they can’t guarantee a private room unless 4 or less were in labor. On a massive joint military base the chances of only 4 people being in labor at any given time is laughable. Women posted on the hospital FB page that they were turned away for overcrowding while in labor and forced to deliver in an off post ER. Not cool.
Out With the Old, in with TriCare Select
My husband encouraged me when I told him I wanted to switch coverage. He just wanted what was best for me and baby. I did a ton of research and found a way to incur the least amount of medical bills before making the official switch. I chose to start from the final stage and work my way backwards. I figured out which hospital I wanted to deliver at. Three friends delivered recently, each at a different hospital. So I got to hear their stories as well as see their rooms first hand when I visited their little bundles.
Once I knew what hospital I wanted to deliver at it was easier the find my doctor. I found out all the doctors that delivered there. Then I narrowed down which ones took TriCare and which ones were in-network.
Keep This In Mind
It’s important to note that while a doctor may accept TriCare Select, they may not be in-network. Non-network providers can charge more for services. In network providers charge minimally. I paid 70 dollars out-of-pocket for that pregnancy. A small price to pay for such a wonderful experience.
TriCare Select Was the Best Choice
By switching to TriCare Select I received the care that I expected from the beginning. My doctors were knowledgeable and attentive. I received state of the art care. It was never difficult to get an appointment and I always knew exactly who to call and for what. The hospital I delivered in was gorgeous. I had a private lactation specialist, a photographer that did fresh 48 photos, I received a goodie bag far beyond the pampers, wipes, and nasal aspirator that everyone is told to take home.
For those of you that only delivered in civilian hospitals this may all seem pretty run of mill. For those of us used to the on post health system, this was like a stay at the Ritz Carlton.
Is TriCare Select the Only Way to Have a Good Pregnancy?
Absolutely not. By the time #2 came around we were at a different installation and lived on post. My husband deployed (it’s a recurring theme in our marriage). This hospital had recently gone through a complete remodel, I had my own room throughout the whole experience and attentive care.
As for my OB care, it was great. They chose my provider by my due date to make sure my doctor wouldn’t be on leave when I delivered. I had every appointment made at my first visit so I knew what to expect and when. So it was night and day from the first full term pregnancy.
So What Should You Do?
The most important thing to remember is to do your research. Don’t get blind sided at the end of your pregnancy when you may not want to switch your care.
Also, with the new TriCare laws that go in effect in 2019 you can’t switch plans whenever you want. Pregnancy doesn’t count as a major life event (go figure). You can only change when you PCS or during a major life event, like death or divorce. So planning is CRUCIAL. I know babies happen, but please consider the stress you could end up in due to lack of planning.
How was your birth experience? Did you use TriCare Prime or Tricare Select?