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UnitedHealthcare unit resumes referrals for veterans, military families

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UnitedHealthcare is resuming the administration of a huge Pentagon contract to provide health care services to military members, veterans and their families.

The Star Tribune reports that UnitedHealthcare’s Military & Veterans unit may again process referrals to specialty care made by primary care doctors in the government’s Tricare insurance program in 21 western states. Tricare Prime has 1.7 million beneficiaries in its western region, including 5,650 in Minnesota.

Last May, the Defense Department imposed restrictions on the Minnetonka-based health care giant. The suspension was initiated because of persistent problems in the transition following UnitedHealthcare's April takeover of the $20.5 billion contract. Providers and patients had complained about delays in the referral process, long waits on phone calls and and trouble using the company’s website.

“Tricare Management Activity is confident that UnitedHealthcare has taken significant action to ensure the timely processing of referral and authorizations,” Tricare said Tuesday in a statement to beneficiaries. “Referral issues experienced by our military treatment facilities and beneficiaries are significantly improved and the process of feedback, testing and correction is ongoing.”

A statement from UnitedHealthcare Military & Veterans apologized for delays and said it has improved service in the Tricare West Region.

“UnitedHealthcare is committed to ensuring Tricare beneficiaries continue to receive timely and necessary access to care,” it said.

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