What Coming TRICARE Changes Will Affect You?
About the Author

Merry, a native of Southern California, enlisted in the Air Force in 1982 as a Personnel Specialist. He was commissioned through AFROTC in 1989, earning his degree in Marketing from Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff Arizona. He holds a master's degrees in Human Resources Management and Military Arts & Science.

After his commissioning, Merry returned to the Personnel career field and served at every level of the Air Force. He was the Career Field Manager for Personnel, Manpower and Services, and was selected as the Air Force's Chief of Compensation and member of the 10th Quadrennial Review of Military Compensation. He has deployments to Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and other locations throughout the Middle East.

Merry is a graduate of Air Command and Staff College at Maxwell AFB, Alabama; and was the Senior Air Force Fellow at the RAND Corporation in Santa Monica, California. At the time of his retirement he was the Commander of Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations (AFMAO) responsible for DoD's sole Port Mortuary at Dover AFB, Delaware.

MOAA was successful in working with Congress to avoid the vast majority of TRICARE fee hikes for current beneficiaries. That means we/you dodged the bullet on proposals to:

  • impose an annual TRICARE For Life enrollment fee of up to 2 percent of retired pay;
  • raise annual fees by 50 to 100 percent for TRICARE Prime and TRICARE Standard over several years; and
  • double pharmacy copayments over the next 10 years.

In the end, Congress opted to (mostly) grandfather currently serving and retired military beneficiaries against these hikes. 

But while you can breathe a sigh of relief on that score, some lesser changes are coming over the next few years that will affect roughly 1.5 million retired military and survivor beneficiaries who get their health care under TRICARE Standard. Those changes include:

  • As of Jan. 1, 2018, TRICARE Standard will be renamed TRICARE Select.
  • Also starting in 2018, you will need to go through a formal enrollment process (signing an enrollment form) to participate in TRICARE Select. Currently, you have to enroll to get care under TRICARE Prime, but your ID card is all you need under TRICARE Standard. That will change in fall 2017, when Standard users will get a notice about needing to enroll in TRICARE Select if they want coverage in 2018. 
  • MOAA successfully lobbied for a grace period for that first year of enrollment, recognizing there always will be people who don’t get the word about big changes like this. During that first year, if you haven’t enrolled and have to go to a doctor or hospital, you will be charged the out-of-network fee for that first incident of care but then must enroll in TRICARE Select to get further care. 
  • For 2018 and 2019, there won’t be any enrollment fee for TRICARE Select. 
  • But beginning Jan. 1, 2020, there will be an annual TRICARE Select enrollment fee of $150 (individual) or $300 (family). Currently serving families, Chapter 61 (medical) retirees, and military survivors whose sponsors died on active duty will be exempt from paying the fee. For subsequent years after 2020, the enrollment fee will be increased by the same annual percentage as the annual retired pay COLA.
  • At the same time the TRICARE Select enrollment fee is established in 2020, the annual catastrophic cap on out-of-pocket expenses for retired families will be raised to $3,500 (versus the current $3,000). In subsequent years, the cap will be increased by the same percentage as the annual retired-pay COLA. The cap will remain at $1,000 a year for currently serving families.  

Though we avoided many threats earlier this year that would have affected TRICARE beneficiaries, these TRICARE Standard changes still represent administrative and fiscal changes for current users who have never been subjected to any enrollment requirements.

MOAA has worked hard to protect retired Standard beneficiaries from inadvertent adverse experiences during the transition to the new enrollment system. We particularly were concerned about those who might have been threatened with loss of coverage simply because they didn’t get the word about the new enrollment requirement — thus the first-year grace period.

We’ll be working throughout the coming year to educate MOAA members about the transition in 2018. You can help by spreading the word to your retired military and survivor friends who use TRICARE Standard.

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