RIVERVIEW, Fla. (WFLA) — When the Florida National Guard activated and deployed her husband’s unit – the 164th Air Defense Artillery Brigade – medical insurance for Holly Fuentes and her 6 children was supposed to seamlessly transfer from her TriCare Reserve Select plan to a TriCare plan for active-duty personnel.
The 164th was activated on Aug. 14, 2020.
“As of Aug. 14, we have no health insurance coverage and we have 6 kids, the newest being 8 weeks old,” Holly told 8 On Your Side.
Holly, who lives in Riverview, was forced to cancel several doctors’ appointments and let a $600 per month prescription for her son go unfilled.
“The most pressing is our 8 week old needs to see a G.I. specialist and I can’t have that done because of the insurance,” she said.
A letter from the National Guard to members warned of a possible insurance coverage gap.
The letter stated: “With the introduction of the Integrated Personnel and Pay System, manual entry processing is now required for all Soldier transactions upon Enter Active Duty (EADT) and Release from Active Duty (RADT) status changes.”
The new $159 million Integrated Personnel and Pay System (IPPS) the Army implemented is designed to provide active-duty members easy access to their payroll and benefits. It has created a health insurance log jam, a delay for activated National Guard members and their families, making their access to medical care not so easy.
“I think it’s outrageous,” Holly said. “If it’s a known problem, why hasn’t it been fixed?”
The National Guard knew months in advance when the 164th would be activated.
“From what I understand, the State of Florida Army National Guard sends their orders to the Federal National Guard,” Holly explained. “The federal side then has to take it from their system and input it into a new system manually. Two systems that should be communicating with each other are not.”
The letter explaining the delay also advised in the case of a medical emergency Holly should bring a copy of her husband’s mobilization orders and her dependent ID card. Medical billing, it stated, will be processed by the medical facility through TriCare.
But that didn’t help Holly one bit when she ended up in an emergency room.
“The person who does the TriCare admission looked at it, looked it up in the computer and said, ‘you know ma’am I’m sorry you’re dealing with this but right now you’re not covered, you’re going to have to pay, as of right now,’” Holly recalled.
After reaching out to the Florida National Guard and TriCare, as well as members of Congress, and hearing nothing, Holly contacted 8 On Your Side.
“I got nowhere until, honestly, you started making phone calls,” she said.
We spoke with the National Guard in Florida as well as the national headquarters in Virginia and alerted Sen. Marco Rubio’s office of the issue.
National Guard Public Affairs Officer Nahaku McFadden in Arlington, Virginia acknowledged a delay in the processing system was identified and personnel are working on it.
“I can’t speak on behalf of what the system is and isn’t doing, the member is getting assistance,” Ms. McFadden assured. “It’s very important that when our members are deployed, our family members are taken care of.”
By the next day, TriCare activated Holly’s insurance as well as the coverage for families of other members of the 164th.
“It is appreciated more than you know, not many people nowadays will do the right thing and rock the boat,” Holly said. “They have a mission that they need 100 percent of their attention to go to and they shouldn’t have to be worrying about whether or not their families back home are being taken care of.”
Until this health insurance snafu is fixed on a national level, soldiers’ concerns about their families back home and whether they’re taken care of are well placed.
If you know of something that you think should be investigated, call our 8 On Your Side Helpline at 1-800-338-0808 or contact Steve Andrews at [email protected]