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American Forces Press Service

Medical Leaders Warn of 2016 Sequestration Effects

By Terri Moon Cronk
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, April 14, 2015 – The president's fiscal year 2016 defense budget proposal supports the Military Health Systems' core values, Air Force Lt. Gen. (Dr.) Douglas J. Robb, director of the Defense Health Agency, told the House Appropriations Committee's defense subcommittee today.

Joined by the Navy, Army and Air Force surgeons general, Robb said the core values of the MHS strategy include improved readiness, better health, better care and a financially responsible stewardship.

"The [budget proposal] assures the department will continue to provide one of the most comprehensive health benefits offered in this country," Robb said.

But while the three services' integrated medical practices that formed DHA have already saved the military $236 million in its first year of operation, Robb said, the return of sequestration in 2016 could cause significant harm.

Quality of Care is 'Sacrosanct'

"[DoD's] commitment to quality of care is sacrosanct," the DHA director said. "In the event of sequestration, we will not allow quality to suffer, or place any patient at risk. But there are significant, long-term effects … that can undermine our efforts to support readiness."

Military medical leaders understand that DoD must do its part to address the nation's budget concerns, Robb said.

"However, it must be done in a responsible and judicious manner," he said, emphasizing that the combined administrative and health-care services of DHA is part of that solution.

"And we will achieve those ends through a responsible management approach,' he said.

Sequestration would be 'Detrimental'

Army Surgeon General Lt. Gen. Patricia D. Horoho said the Army Medical Command still has not recovered from the 2013 sequestration furloughs of civilian employees, and another round of the forced budget cuts in 2016 could harm the confidence soldiers have in their medical system.

"The return to sequestration would have a significant, detrimental impact on our patients, families and our medical team," said Horoho, who also is the commander of U.S. Army Medical Command.

"Devastating reductions to both civilian personnel and military end-strength would impact every Army medicine program," the Army surgeon general said. "Sequestration would cause the [Army Medical Command] to close inpatient and ambulatory surgical centers and a number of our military treatment facilities, jeopardizing our ready and deployable force."

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