MEDFORD, Ore.– Several southern Oregon military families have been uninsured for the last month after the National Guard experienced a variety of issues that led to soldiers and their families losing their eligibility.
According to the Oregon Army National Guard, about 220 military families were confirmed to have lost their insurance sometime this year. It says some of these stem from local input errors while others come from system issues at the national level.
While most of the cases have been resolved before the Thanksgiving holiday, there are some families still irritated something like this could happen.
For several families in the Rogue Valley, they were made aware of the issue after their husbands deployed back in October. Members of the Oregon National Guard 186th Infantry mobilized for their federal mission to the Horn of Africa on October 13. Soon after, families began to find out they weren’t covered by the military’s insurance.
“I’m irritated. I’m super irritated that they would do this right before they left,” said Summer Deemer, the wife of a National Guardsman and mother to two children.
Deemer says unbeknownst to her and her husband, once he left something went wrong and their eligibility dropped. They were living without medical insurance but she wasn’t aware of the issue at the time and took her two daughters, a six-year-old and a newborn, to the doctor.
“I am just now getting the bills for it which are saying no it’s not covered, you owe this much money,” she said. “That was supposed to be covered for the insurance.”
She says she’s accrued more than $3,000 in medical bills. Deemer says she and her husband never received a notice they were ineligible for insurance. It was only when she spoke with another soldier’s wife that she learned they weren’t covered.
“Just finding out through another wife that we don’t have insurance, that’s not cool,” she said. “That’s not ok.”
The Oregon Army National Guard says there have been a variety of issues causing this problem. It could be as small as checking the wrong box, and as widespread as a data glitch at the national level.
“There are different systems that all have to talk to each other and even though it’s 2019 and you think we’d have it all dialed in, no there’s still computer errors and input errors that take place not at the local level but also at the national level,” said Maj. Stephen Bomar, director of public affairs for the Oregon Military Department.
Maj. Bomar says the guard did not send out notices to people telling them they weren’t covered. However, it did contact families about the process of getting reimbursed and re-enrolling for eligibility.
Bomar says having this many individuals affected in one mobilization isn’t normal for Oregon but acknowledged it is something that occurs often across the country.
“It is very unfortunate that that is kind of a normal that people fall off the system and we have to go back individually and assist them through the process,” he said.
NBC5 News reached out to TRICARE, the insurance company contracted to work with the military, to see if they were aware of the problem. We did not receive a callback.
Maj. Bomar says they’re looking into this at the national level but in the meantime – Oregon’s guard is assisting its families to make sure they’re covered.
“One individual not having insurance can be stressful for them so we try to walk them through the process and then of course if they need to be reimbursed or made whole again we make sure that takes place,” said Maj. Bomar.
He said that any families that should have been insured but did pay out of pocket for any medical expenses can file a claim through the TRICARE reimbursement process.
Deemer’s family received notice on Monday they were eligible for insurance again. But she adds no military family should ever have to go through something like this.
“This shouldn’t have happened. It’s super stressful for the soldiers over there worrying about this and the wives here with kids and no kids,” said Deemer. “It shouldn’t have happened at all.”
The Oregon Army National Guard says it has 18 individual cases left to fix. It’s hoping to have those done by Thanksgiving week.
Congressman Greg Walden’s office says it was made aware of the problem last month. A spokesperson tells us they’ve been looking into it and found that more states than just Oregon appear to be affected.