WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Tom Cole (OK-04) and Congresswoman Elaine Luria (VA-02) released the following statements after the U.S. House of Representatives adopted the TRICARE ECHO Improvement Act as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for fiscal year 2021.
Previously introduced in March by Reps. Cole and Luria, the TRICARE ECHO Improvement Act outlines commonsense changes to TRICARE’s existing Extended Care Health Option (ECHO) program.
While Congress created TRICARE’s ECHO program for families of active-duty service members to serve as an alternative to Medicaid’s Home and Community-Based Services (HCBS) waiver programs, it currently fails to provide comparable services.
Since Medicaid is a program based on state residency, military families often face HCBS waiver access challenges due to frequent moves required by their military service. To fix this problem, the legislation outlines a more robust ECHO program that improves access for military families with special needs dependents and that provides equitable coverage of the services widely offered to residents of many states through Medicaid.
The legislation as contained in the NDAA amendment enhances the ECHO benefit by:
• Increasing hours of covered respite care to provide rest for the patient’s primary caregiver.
• Codifying new regulations on respite care eligibility so that families may receive respite care even if they are not accessing other ECHO services.
• Codifying coverage of durable equipment so that ECHO may cover service and modification of durable equipment and assistive technology devices, as well as training in use, to ensure equipment is fully functional and matches the physical needs of the user.
• Providing coverage of residence and vehicle adaptations.
• Requiring a GAO study of state waiver and Veteran’s Affairs family caregiving programs to analyze best practices and make recommendations for ECHO as necessary.