This article by Karen Jowers originally appeared on Military Times, the nation's largest independent newsroom dedicated to covering the military and veteran community.
Note from MOAA: Are you a retiree family using TRICAmailRE Select? You must act now to pay the new enrollment fee or you will be disenrolled from TRICARE as of Jan. 1, 2021. Call or visit your TRICARE contractor’s website for details.
Just 14 percent of the military retiree households who must start paying enrollment fees for Tricare Select have set up their payment process, Tricare officials said.
Those who don’t set up their payments by Dec. 31 risk losing their Tricare coverage as of Jan. 1. The new fees are $12.50 per month, or $150 a year for an individual; and $25 a month, or $300 a year, for family coverage. Those affected are working-age retirees under age 65 who entered the military before Jan. 1, 2018, their family members and survivors. Previously, these beneficiaries haven’t had to pay enrollment fees for Tricare Select, but a 2017 law required the Defense Department to start charging these enrollment fees by Jan. 1, 2021.
[RELATED: MOAA’s TRICARE Guide]
The preferred payment method is through allotment, but recurring credit or debit card transactions can be used, or electronic funds transfers. Click here for more information from Tricare about setting up the payments.
Those who set up their payment process by Nov. 20 won’t have to pay upfront enrollment fees, said Mark Ellis, chief of policy and programs for the Tricare Health Plan. You’ll just be arranging to start the recurring payment. As of Nov. 9, just 14 percent of the households that must set up payments had done so, Ellis said.
Currently there are about 850,000 beneficiaries who fall into this category, also known as Group A retiree beneficiaries and are covered by Tricare Select. Information was not immediately available about how many households those 850,000 beneficiaries represent, since in many cases, multiple beneficiaries are covered under a retiree’s Tricare Select plan.
Ellis' message to these beneficiaries: “Please don’t let coverage lapse. Please contact your regional contractor if you want to continue in Tricare Select.”
The new fees don’t affect military retirees in Tricare for Life.
Defense officials have sent out several mailings over the last few months, Ellis said. They’ve also taken some steps to mitigate the impact to those who don’t set up their payments.
Tricare officials have extended the grace period for people to reinstate their coverage, from 90 days to 180 days, Ellis said. That means those who are terminated can pay their missed monthly premiums, and the coverage will be retroactive. Tricare will then pay the claims that were denied because of the coverage termination.
There are concerns that this particular patient population “needs to be educated to make an informed decision about whether they want to continue their coverage or use other health insurance available outside the military health system,” Ellis said. Many of these retirees were previously in the Tricare Standard or Extra program before it was replaced by Tricare Select in January, 2018. These beneficiaries were automatically transitioned into Tricare Select at that time, and fees were not required.
Tricare officials have directed the Tricare regional contractors to make at least three phone calls to households whose coverage was terminated because they didn’t set up their payments. They’ll call the home phone, cell phone, work phone, speaking to an adult in the household, letting them know their coverage has been terminated and what they can do to reinstate the coverage, said Ellis.