New Program Helps TRICARE Beneficiaries Battle Lung Diseases

FALLS CHURCH, Va. – Even after quitting, smoking can lead to serious health problems, and one of them is chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. TRICARE is committed to helping beneficiaries quit smoking and stay smoke-free.

Smoking is the leading cause of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and exposure to secondhand smoke is listed among the common causes of COPD. Other causes are long-term exposure to chemical fumes, vapors and dusts and other lung irritants including air pollution.

COPD is the name used to describe a combination of two respiratory diseases: emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Currently there is no cure for COPD, which develops slowly and by the time symptoms show, the lungs are already damaged.

With COPD, less air flows in and out of airways and symptoms can mirror those of other diseases or medical conditions. The symptoms of COPD are:

  • An ongoing cough, or a cough that produces large amounts of mucus (often called “smoker’s cough”)
  • Shortness of breath, especially with physical activity
  • Wheezing (a whistling or squeaky sound while breathing)
  • Frequent clearing of the throat
  • Chest tightness

TRICARE covers the tests necessary to diagnose COPD, including x-rays, arterial blood gas analysis, lung function tests and exercise tests. Beneficiaries with any of the following risk factors should talk to their primary care manager about a COPD screening:

  • Current and ex-smokers
  • Those with a family history of emphysema
  • Those who have or had a job with exposure to dust, chemicals, fumes, smoke, gases or vapors

Learn more about COPD by visiting the NHLBI Web site at http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/public/lung/copd/index.htm.

TRICARE’s regional contractors all offer COPD management programs featuring telephonic or mail educational materials and coaching by registered nurses or specialists. The disease management program also offers beneficiaries information on how to get and use other COPD resources in their community. By working with their primary care providers and COPD disease management specialists, and by following their action plan, beneficiaries can learn how to breathe a little easier while living with COPD.

For more information about Health Net’s COPD disease management program, click the COPD link at https://www.hnfs.net/bene/healthyliving/dm_main.htm. Humana’s COPD Disease Management Program information page is located at http://www.humana-military.com/south/bene/health-wellness/Disease-Management/copd/copd.asp. TriWest’s COPD program information page is located at http://www.triwest.com/beneficiary/healthy_living/condition/copd.aspx.

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