A bipartisan bill would expand TRICARE eligibility to young adult dependents up to age 26, fixing an eligibility gap between TRICARE and commercial plans that has existed for a decade.
The Health Care Fairness for Military Families Act of 2021 (H.R. 475), introduced by Reps. Elaine Luria (D-Va.) and Michael Waltz (R-Fla.), would correct this concern at a critical time – COVID-19 has underscored the need for young adult health care coverage as the pandemic has upended higher education plans and made it more difficult for young adults to find jobs.
Commercial plans are required by law to make coverage available until adult children turn 26. For military families, TRICARE coverage ends at age 21, or age 23 if the child is a full-time college student.
[RELATED: MOAA's 2020-21 TRICARE Guide]
After they lose coverage under TRICARE, dependents can purchase TRICARE Young Adult (TYA), a premium-based plan. Monthly premiums for 2021 are $459 for TYA Prime and $257 for TYA Select, up 22% and 13% respectively since last year. At the end of FY 2019, there were approximately 37,000 young adults enrolled in TYA; most were the children of military retirees.
Since its inception in 2012, TYA premiums have increased dramatically, leading to lower enrollment and a beneficiary pool skewed toward those with chronic medical conditions. TYA Prime premiums are up 160% since 2012 (an average annual increase of 14%) while the cost of TYA Select has grown 69% (up 7% per year, on average). These increases call the future viability of this premium-based plan into question.
The members of Congress behind this bill are very familiar with the health care concerns of the uniformed services community: Rep. Luria is a retired Navy commander, and Rep. Waltz has served more than 20 years in the Army and is currently a colonel in the Army National Guard. In a press release announcing the bill, they explained the importance of this legislative fix.
“Our service members have risked everything to protect our nation and preserve our freedoms,” Waltz said. “They should not have to worry about the health and welfare of their families while serving our country. That’s why I’m proud to support this legislation to support our military families, provide an additional retention-incentive for our service members, and ensure the children of our troops have the same, equal access to health care as their civilian counterparts.”
Luria, who introduced a similar bill last year, cited a sense of urgency given the COVID-19 pandemic: “During this public health emergency, it is more important than ever to provide our servicemembers and their families with affordable and accessible health care.”
MOAA appreciates their efforts to address this TRICARE parity issue. Military families who have sacrificed so much in support of our nation deserve the same health care protections for their young adult children as their civilian counterparts covered by commercial plans.
We are currently developing our engagement strategy to support this bill and will share ways MOAA members can get involved in the coming weeks.