TRICARE coverage for their young adult daughters cost the Brock family more than $13,000 over five years.
The steep costs meant carefully monitoring their budget and making sacrifices, but cutting off access to health care for their daughters by pulling them out of the TRICARE Young Adult (TYA) program was not a risk they were willing to take, said matriarch Annie Brock, who served in the Army for almost 10 years.
“Why wouldn’t we want to make sure they had good health insurance?” Brock said. “I think every parent wants to make sure their child is taken care of when they need health care, but not every parent is able to make it happen.”
Brock – a Life Member of MOAA along with her husband, Lt. Col. Jeff Brock, USAF (Ret) – represented one of three families sharing their stories during a virtual press conference April 22 in support of the Health Care Fairness for Military Families Act (H.R. 475), which would extend coverage under TRICARE to age 26 and eliminate TYA premiums, which have spiked in recent years.
[RELATED: Ask Your Lawmakers to Support H.R. 475]
MOAA supports the legislation, co-sponsored by military veterans Rep. Elaine Luria (D-Va.) and Rep. Mike Waltz (R-Fla.), who hosted the press event. TRICARE young adult coverage is one of three issues that make up Advocacy in Action, MOAA’s signature spring advocacy event.
“It’s important to note that the Military Officers Association of America as well as the National Military Family Association have endorsed this legislation,” said Luria, a retired Navy commander. “Your advocacy on this and so many issues and unwavering support for veterans and their families is truly inspiring and critical in our military community and with our military families.”
‘The Military Is One Team’
Dependents can stay on their parents’ TRICARE plans up to age 21, or age 23 if they are a full-time college student. Commercial plans must offer coverage to dependents up to age 26. TRICARE users can purchase coverage for young adult dependents up to age 26 via TYA at a cost of $459 per month, per child, for Prime or $257 per month for Select.
In a two-year period, Brock said the premium for one of her daughters increased by 50% each year, up from $156.
“My family won’t benefit” from a change in law, Brock said, “but the military is one team. “Regardless of service or era, we are bound to the families on our right and left, in front of us and behind us. We must be faithful to each other. So, enough is enough. As military families we make many sacrifices to serve our nation. There is no reason we should be financially penalized in a way that other American families are not.”
The proposal mirrors what is available in the private sector as mandated by the Affordable Care Act: coverage for dependents on parent plans until age 26.
Most Americans have no idea of the emotional sacrifices military children grow up with,” Brock said. “The homecomings we see on TV and social media give people a warm fuzzy. They have no idea of what it’s like to live that life. Then to be told by Congress that their healthcare isn’t as important as their civilian young adult friend, it’s unconscionable.”
The Brock daughters were both completing graduate school when they were dependents on their parents’ plan. Each worked part-time jobs to help cover bills, but neither was able to secure health care through their employment.
Brock and her husband picked up their daughters’ medical bills. Brock said she understands not every military family may be able to do that, and wonders if retention could become an issue if TRICARE Young Adult isn’t adjusted.
Waltz, who served as a Green Beret on active duty and is now a colonel in the Army Reserve, echoed Brock’s sentiments, saying health care benefits could become a determining factor in whether a military member continues to serve.
“Health care and health care for their children is often a key factor,” Waltz said. “So from what I’m seeing and hearing, this is a retention issue. We want to retain so much of that experience that the country has invested in these service men and women for so long.”
[MOAA ISSUE PAPER: Learn More About TYA and H.R. 475]
The Congressional Budget Office estimates the legislation would cost $125 million annually, Waltz said. He told Military.com in January that this estimate doesn’t factor in potential retention benefits.
The proposed legislation corrects an obvious shortfall, said Luria.
“It seemed really obvious that we needed to fix this, especially the children of those people who are serving our country in uniform should have access to the same health care benefits as the rest of the community,” she said. “I think it’s our responsibility in Congress to ensure that our servicemember families have access to the same quality health care – and under the same conditions – allowing young people to stay on their parents’ plans up to the age of 26 as the rest of the community and all those who have health insurance and coverage under the Affordable Care Act.”
Have More Questions About Your Health Care Benefit?
MOAA's 2020-2021 TRICARE Guide answers some commonly asked questions.