Help military families with TRICARE

As we celebrate Independence Day, I ask that you consider taking care of a few TRICARE patients as a way of thanking our service members for their sacrifice.  I must admit I originally avoided taking care of any TRICARE patients because of the low pay.  When one of the surgeons I work with first talked about caring for some of the military families, I gave a large internal groan as I choked out that I would be glad to help.  I have since been surprised and very pleased with my decision.

Despite filling some of my schedule with fairly low paying work, I have yet to be unable to pay my bills or to feed my family.  Even though it would be really bad for the economics of my family if all of my work had low pay, taking care of some TRICARE patients has been a very positive experience for me.  Now when I thank our service men and women for serving our country and making it possible for my family and me to have such a nice life, I say it not only with my words but also with my actions in caring for their families.

It sounds too sweet to say that there is more than one way to be paid for our work, but I truly feel the fulfillment I get from taking care of military families more than makes up for the decrease in money I have in my bank account.  In a very small way while never leaving the safety and comfort of my family, am I doing my part to help defend the United States?  Not really, but it feels like I am at least now doing something tangible to personally help.  TRICARE patients have great difficulty finding a doctor and they could really use your help.

I have been told that good feelings don’t pay the bills, but I know that the good feelings I get from taking care of our military families is one thing that helps make it easier for me to get up each morning and take care of patients.  I can’t promise you that every one of the military families will be as polite and grateful to you as they have been to me, but I would be very surprised if you feel taken advantage of by this group of patients.  It is very hard to blame the TRICARE patients for not having a better-paying insurance.  They have no control over the terms of their medical insurance.  You are probably not going to get rich in US dollars from taking care of our military families, but if you approach it from the standpoint of doing a little to say, “Thank you for your service,” I don’t think you are going to be disappointed by how rich you feel.

Robert Luedecke is an anesthesiologist.

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  • Ron Smith

    Well said. I have always taken care of our military’s children who are on Tricare. I appreciate what they do and how their service makes my practice of medicine and the living of life here in America possible.

    One step to the side of our military, let me thank our nation’s police force for the same thing.

    Without our freedoms and the social order which these two protective arms ensure, none of the life that we all live would be possible.

    I salute them both.

    Ron Smith, MD
    Pediatrics
    www (dot) ronsmithmd (dot) com

  • meyati

    As a former military wife and mother, I’ve always appreciated the care we received from most civilian doctors—Nothing is perfect.

    There’s an oral surgeon that makes dentures for disabled vets. I asked one of the nurses about the VA co-pay and the surgeon’s reimbursement for my son’s care. I was humbled when I was told that it’s free. On the days they take care of the disabled vets, the nurses refuse to accept pay. As one said- her father was severely wounded in ‘Nam. My son’s general health is better now. He’s better emotionally, because his mouth isn’t in constant pain.
    The dentist reaches out to the suppliers for donations or supply price reductions. The veterans’ associations do fund raising, and the AF dental corps in this state also do fundraising. All of this is because of one AF captain. He heard that vets didn’t have dental care, especially the ones in the psych ward. He cancelled appts. went in the next day, and did exams. The next day my son was in the AF clinic getting his teeth cleaned and assessed. The Capt. reached out to the local dentists for help.

    My dentist doesn’t do this. He goes to a shelter 1-2 days a week and takes care of the teeth of the homeless. I think that he can be forgiven-but that group includes disabled vets that haven’t been processed by the VA yet.

  • Larry Bookhamer

    As a retired veteran and having worked for the past six years within the TRICARE field I thank you for your support and services. It is providers like you that make a difference in our families lives. Thank you for your SERVICE to the country as well.

  • Noni

    Some of my favorite patients. Aside from their sacrifice serving our country they are without exception the most grateful patients I take care of. It’s always a pleasure.

  • LBENT

    As a surgeon for kids, I think it is a terrible thing when we do not take care of any child due to their ability to pay. I feel honored to care for our military families. This is not about physicians vs. NPs as Cyndee “guesses,” but about how each one of us gives back something to the community.

    • Guest

      Meh, Cyndee always has an agenda. Yet she whines that she is not compensated at the same level as a physician. So do other NPs on this site.

  • D N Block MD, PhD

    I thank the good Lord, Dr Luedecke, that you are willing to share the story of your care for a few patients on Tricare. Where would we be without you? And that you would urge other physicians to forsake their ideals and provide that low-paying care as well? That you would shoulder not only the burden and risk of your own family’s future, but THEIR families’ as well? Praiseworthy! Where would we be without you? I have met so many doctors like you, Dr Luedecke – even some others who are anesthesiologists – who have learned the value of a few good deeds, carefully chosen from the uncountable demands we physicians are heir to. The profession, in fact, the country, has much to learn from you, about you, but… they will. Where would we be without you?

    I am only sorry for me now that it’s too late, since I’m retired. My buddies and I didn’t choose more carefully those patients to whom we refused care. We could have turned those people into damn good lessons by which we all might have profited.

    Your point is so well made: the MORE care we in Medicine withhold based on the patient’s ability to pay, the BETTER we will feel about ourselves when we DO provide care. Make care scarce enough, and both we and they – people who are sick, or scared, or needy – will value it more! And it is so very hard to have a high sense of net worth, of self-esteem, of those “good feelings” when you’ve got to get up each day and provide care to those sick people with their inevitable, incessant secretions. Believe me, I know! We in Medicine should not be encouraging their squandering the need for, in your case, intubation by “just giving it away.” It’s the milk-and-the-cow conundrum in health economics that you’ve just solved: who indeed will want us doctors when we just give it away so promiscuously, and take care of EVERYBODY? Where would we be without you?

    So, thank you for teaching us this again. Where would we be without you?

    Where would we be without you?

  • militarymedical

    While it’s always gratifying to read that there are some physicians and others who are willing to take on military servicemembers and their families, I have to say you, Dr. Luedecke, sound both pretentious and condescending in the way you rationalize doing so. I’ve been around military members and their families since birth – as a military brat, then as a provider for over 40 years, now as a retiree. Military health care was gutted by the Bush41/Clinton administrations after the Gulf War and has never recovered. What used to be a unique, model system that was able to “take care of its own” became, under the direction of Congress, a copycat business-driven entity that considers the bottom line more than patient care. Instead of being cared for by those who knew us, respected us, were a part of us, the military-related population became fodder for “out-sourcing” to greedy contractors and health care corporations (an oxymoron if I ever heard one).

    Meanwhile, Congress and the current administration continue to place undue, unfair, unique (in that no other federal employees are under similar requirements) and disproportionate financial burdens on veterans, military retirees and – yes – currently serving men, women and their families. While wringing their hands about “escalating health care costs that adversely affect military readiness,” they completely ignore the fact that the military healthcare system has, in fact, MADE money — which is diverted into other programs instead of being plowed back into improving medical services and resources. You can look it up.

    I’m so happy that the teensy corner of your practice that you so generously “donate” makes you feel good. Such noblesse oblige! In the meantime, we of the 1% who serve so that 99% can go to the mall will continue to do so. By all means, don’t stop now! Try writing your Congresscritters to put a little equity into their actions regarding costs to servicemembers for their health care. My father, my son and I myself were all promised “free health care for life” when we became career Soldiers, because of what we were willing to give up if/when asked. So much for promises. What happens if your income falls to the point where you can no longer afford to take on these low-paying, humbly grateful, groveling cases? I suspect you’d cut them off without a backward glance.

    For the best description of how the military and their families are treated in general, pick up a volume of Rudyard Kipling’s poetry and read “Tommie.” Yes, you touched a very sensitive nerve of mine.

  • Robert Luedecke

    To militarymedical, I am very sorry that your healthcare program was changed. I may not be able to help get your medical care back to the way it was before, but I hope more private docs will recognize the sacrifices you have made and help take care of Veterans like yourself.

    To D N Block, I am not at all implying that I am risking a lot to take care of military families, only trying to encourage other doctors to do the same. It might seem like I am patting myself on the back for doing good deeds, but I am only trying to get more docs who will care for Veterans. When I need help from a consultant to help take care of a patient who has TRICARE, it is frequently quite difficult to find someone who participates.

    I am also not demeaning doctors who do not accept TRICARE. Every doctor needs to make more money than it costs them to keep the doors open, and it is a fact for many of us, that TRICARE pays us a very small amount.