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March 31 is the last day for walk-in customer service at 189 Tricare offices in Hampton Roads and across the country in the U.S.

The closures are part of the reorganization of the military medical system under the Defense Health Agency. There are three in Hampton Roads - adjacent to Naval Medical Center Portsmouth, at the 633rd Medical Group at Joint Base Langley and at McDonald Army Health Center at Joint Base Eustis in Newport News.

The move is a cost-savings measure that will free up resources for other health care programs by saving the Defense Department $250 million over the next five years, Tricare officials said.

According to data provided by Tricare, utilization rates at service centers in military hospitals and clinics nationwide have varied from eight to 3,000 customers per month, while the cost of running a center ranges from $30 to $216 per walk-in.

'Many Tricare Service Centers were seeing small numbers of walk-in customers each day. It didn't make sense to continue this approach from a customer service perspective or a cost perspective,' Tricare spokesman Austin Camacho said late last year.

The change means that troops have one less box to check when they arrive or leave a base; nearly 50 percent of visits to the centers were simply for in- and out-processing, officials said.

The rest of the visits largely involved changing primary care providers and asking billing-related questions services that can be done on the Internet or by phone, Pentagon officials concluded.

To accommodate additional customers, Tricare will bolster its online capacity and offer mobile applications as alternatives.

Beneficiaries also can call a toll-free phone number in their Tricare region to get the same services.

Customer service contacts for all Tricare regions can be found online.

Officials have been working to get the word out on the upcoming change.

Military treatment facilities, for example, have been instructed to post signs and advertise in base newspapers. Tricare newsletters sent to beneficiaries also have noted the change.

'The change will not let me repeat that will not affect any Tricare medical benefit or health care service,' said a Pentagon spokesman, Army Col. Steve Warren.

Overseas locations will remain open for customers.

Health Benefits Advisors in Hampton Roads contact via phone:
Naval Medical Center Portsmouth, 757-953-2610
Naval Station Norfolk Branch Clinic (Sewells Point), 757-953-8708
JEB Little Creek Branch Health Clinic (Boone Clinic), 757-953-8183
Oceana Naval Air Station Branch Health Clinic, 757-953-3933 (option 7)
Naval Weapons Station Branch Health Clinic, 757-953-8441
Northwest Annex (Chesapeake) Branch Health Clinic, 757-953-6246
Chesapeake TRICARE Prime Clinic, 757-953-6382
Virginia Beach TRICARE Prime Clinic, 757-953-6710

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