The Joys of Tricare

Let’s discuss the lovely healthcare system of the United States Armed Forces, also known as Tricare. Tricare Prime in our family. Disclaimer: I am NOT bashing the fact that I get free, usually quality healthcare! Just putting that out there. I just might be bashing the logistics of said system.

When my husband was a stationed at Camp Lejeune, NC, he worked at the Naval Hospital. This was our first duty station so he was fresh out of boot camp and A-School (job training), and was just pretty much a huge newbie to the Navy scene. So they slapped him into night shift work at the hospital on base. Not his first pick on how to spend 2 years in the military, but what can you do? Gotta pay your dues somehow.

This was my first experience with being a military spouse in general. We had gotten married 2 weeks before we moved from Chicago to N.C. We get signed up for Tricare, my oldest son and I. Things are great, we are learning about our new locale, getting to know the local Walmart (pretty much the hottest spot in Jacksonville, N.C.), and then BAM! I found out I was pregnant. Called the OB-GYN clinic and told them I had a positive pregnancy test. They told me I have to come in and take a “military issued test”. I say ok and drive up to pee on a stick that looked exactly like the First Response I peed on the day before. Lo and behold, the military says I am pregnant. Fine. This is in May, they can’t fit me into OB-GYN until January. January is when my new fetus is due to make its debut. So they send me to Family Medicine. I get my first appointment in July. That’s a lot of waiting for a pregnant lady.

My pregnancy was slightly high risk towards the end. The baby wanted to come out, the doctors didn’t want him too…Premature labor was put under control  and my actual birth experience was not too shabby. This was the first time having a baby in a military facility and I had heard horror story after horror story. Still do actually. The only disheartening thing was the corpsman who was brought in to start my IV. Turns out he was buddies with my husband (they had gone to Corps School together) and instead of paying attention to the elephant sized, panting pregnant woman that he was supposed to be “professionally” sticking, he was joking around with Joe about their times in Chicago and how “fucked up” they used to get. While I had the upmost faith in my own husband, this guy was stressing me out so bad that the nurse came in to see why my heartbeat was off the charts.

Immature corpsmen aside, my experience with Lejeune wasn’t too bad. It wasn’t until we moved here to Norfolk that Tricare and I have become foes in this crazy healthcare battle. Now if you have ever been to the Hampton Roads area you know how congested it is, and how full of military it is. It’s out of control. There are all sorts of bases here. Tricare set me and the boys up at Langley AFB which is about 30 minutes away and through a tunnel. Again, if you know Norfolk you know to avoid tunnels at all costs. The traffic here is painful at best. Naturally, aside from necessary appointments, I self medicate at home and avoid going at all costs.

Unfortunately, this week I have received a lovely present from my husband (who is conveniently absent in the field)…a cold which morphed into the worst sinus infection I have ever had. So I suck it up, call the appointment line and attempt to get seen so I can snag some antibiotics.

Me: Hi, I have a sinus infection and would like to see my doctor.

Operator: We’re sorry, there are no appointments available until next week.

Me: I will probably be dead next week, are you sure you can’t fit me in?

Operator: Ma’am, if there were appointments open, I would give you one. I do apologize.

Right, not getting an appointment at the doctors. They suggested that I go to the emergency room at Portsmouth Naval. Hah, not likely with two young children and a husband who is playing war games in some field…It would seem that free healthcare does have a price tag; although at least I can say that I have it!

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