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Don’t overlook medical benefits for retirement

Regional Health Command-Pacific Commanding General

Published: 02:00PM March 15th, 2018
170803-F-HW934-554

U.S. Air Force Photo

If you are a career, active-duty service member and approaching retirement, there are some important decisions that you will need to make regarding future health care coverage.

For many service members who are planning to transition out of the military, the thought of retirement can be emotional and even overwhelming. However, for those who are ready and prepared, the transition can actually be less daunting than one would expect.

The retirement orientation process covers a lot of important information, to include details about health care benefits that are available to military retirees and their families.

If you are a career, active-duty service member and approaching retirement, there are some important decisions that you will need to make regarding future health care coverage.

TRICARE, the Department of Defense’s health care program, will still be available for retirees, but there will be different options to consider and certain actions that must be taken.

For starters, as a retiree, there are two health care plans that you may be eligible for — TRICARE Prime and TRICARE Select.

With TRICARE Prime, you will serve as an active partner with your primary care manager to develop and manage your health care plan. With TRICARE Select, you will receive your care in the network from a TRICARE authorized provider of your choice.

It’s important to note that the TRICARE Prime option has fewer out-of-pocket costs than TRICARE Select, but less freedom of choice when choosing a provider.

If you live within a 40-mile radius of a military treatment facility, then you are in a prime service area, and eligible to enroll in TRICARE Prime. Although you may reside in a prime service area, you do have the option to enroll in TRICARE Select.

If you live outside of the prime service area, TRICARE Select may be the best TRICARE option for you.

One of the most obvious changes to your health care plan that you will notice as a military retiree is the annual enrollment fee of $289.08, for an individual, or $578.08, for a family.

However, if you are enrolled in TRICARE Prime at a military hospital, there are no co-payments or cost shares for any care received in the military treatment facility.

Currently, if you choose to enroll in TRICARE Select, you will not have an annual enrollment fee, but you will incur co-payments and cost shares for medical services provided. You will also be responsible for meeting annual deductibles before TRICARE Select pays for medical services.

Additional information about cost shares associated with this option can be obtained by contacting a beneficiary counseling and assistance coordinator, at Madigan Army Medical Center, 253-968-1145 (option 2), or any military treatment facility across the military.

Before enrolling in TRICARE Prime or TRICARE Select, make sure your information is updated in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System. Once you and any family members are listed in DEERS as retirees, you will then be able to begin your TRICARE Prime or TRICARE Select enrollment process.

To enroll, visit the Beneficiary Web Enrollment site, dmdc.osd.mil/appj/bwe or call Health Net Federal Services at 844-866-9378.

Your eligibility as an active-duty retired service member begins the day you retire. However, I encourage you to start this process early to avoid a break in health care coverage.

If you want to keep your TRICARE Prime coverage or enroll in TRICARE Select without a lapse in coverage, you must enroll before you retire or within 90 days after your retirement date.

Additionally, retirees who choose not to enroll in a TRICARE program will only be eligible to receive care in the military treatment facility on a space available basis.

Retiring from the military and beginning a second career is a significant event in one’s life, and the goal of the Department of Defense is to help make that transition as smooth as possible.

If you are planning to retire in the coming years, I want to thank you and your family for your selfless and dedicated service to our nation and best wishes for a successful transition.