TRICARE Implements Mental Health Care Improvements

June 23, 2017

As of this July, TRICARE will fully have implemented its new policies, which will provide expanded mental health coverage for beneficiaries. This long awaited effort will bring the TRICARE program's mental health coverage in line with recommendations from both DoD and many professional national health care organizations. 

“This is a great step forward and will expand ways in which beneficiaries can access authorized mental health services,” says MOAA's director of Health Affairs, Capt. Kathryn Beasley, USN (Ret). 

Here are the key changes: 

  • Aligns cost-shares and coverage for mental health conditions with medical-surgical conditions and eliminates unnecessary restrictions on amounts and types of benefit limitations. For example, there will be no arbitrary set limits on numbers of mental health visits, as they will now be determined by the needs of the beneficiary and their clinical condition.
  • Expands coverage, including substance use disorder treatment by individual professional providers.
  • Streamlines TRICARE's administrative requirements for mental health and substance use disorder institutional providers, which will make it more attractive for them to join the TRICARE network. This should result in more participating providers and better access.
  • Expands TRICARE coverage to include authorization of intensive outpatient programs and opiate treatment programs.

Previous TRICARE regulations placed restrictions on beneficiary access to substance abuse disorder care by enforcing predetermined limits on partial hospitalizations and outpatient therapies, including smoking cessation and family therapy. These updated regulations will explicitly authorize intensive outpatient care for substance abuse disorders and other mental health disorders as a covered benefit. 

MOAA consistently has encouraged DoD in its efforts to destigmatize mental health treatment and has long advocated for better access to mental health services. These implemented changes will result in significantly improved services for all TRICARE beneficiaries. 



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