TRICARE’s mail-order program earns high marks in federal audit

August 28, 2013

An audit by the Department of Defense’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) found the TRICARE mail-order pharmacy program to be “more efficient and effective than retail programs” and less error-prone.

An audit by the Department of Defense’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) found the TRICARE mail-order pharmacy program to be “more efficient and effective than retail programs” and less error-prone.

TRICARE is the healthcare plan that serves 10 million active and retired military personnel. In May, the National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS) urged a congressional panel to reject proposals that would force military families to use mail-order services to fill prescriptions. The proposed changes were part of discussions regarding the 2014 Defense Budget.

NACDS said mandating use of TRICARE would limit choices for service members, retirees, and their families. NACDS also said that mail order is more expensive than the retail pharmacy in the case of generics.

However, the OIG audit demonstrated that the TRICARE mail-order program saved taxpayers 16.7% compared to retail pharmacy. Additionally, 96% of TRICARE beneficiaries surveyed said they were either “somewhat,” “very,” or “completely satisfied” with the program.

The audit also revealed that TRICARE had a lower rate of prescription errors than retail pharmacy, including shipping the wrong drug. According to the audit, TRICARE dispensations were 99.997% error free versus a 98.5% error-free rate for retail pharmacy.

“Despite repeated claims by the retail pharmacy lobby, TRICARE could not identify information that quantified waste resulting from delivered and unneeded prescriptions,” the audit said. “What OIG did find was the TRICARE has imposed strong operational controls, including auto refill programs, to ensure beneficiaries receive only necessary pharmaceuticals.”