Graduation Season Brings Health Care Challenges for Military Families

Graduation Season Brings Health Care Challenges for Military Families
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For military families, college graduation brings a concern their civilian counterparts don’t have to worry about – securing health care coverage for the new graduate.


Beyond age 21, TRICARE covers a dependent child only if they are enrolled full-time in college. That means for many military kids, college graduation is not just a milestone accomplishment – it also marks the loss of TRICARE benefits.


Federal law requires commercial and employer-sponsored plans that offer dependent child coverage to keep that coverage available until the adult child reaches age 26. No college enrollment requirement or separate premium exists for civilian families who elect to keep adult children on commercial plans.


[TAKE ACTION: Urge Your Elected Officials to Fix the TRICARE Young Adult Coverage Gap]


TRICARE is not subject to state and federal laws governing health insurance. TRICARE policy terminates coverage for young adults at age 21 (or 23 if they are a full-time student). The FY 2011 National Defense Authorization Act established TRICARE Young Adult (TYA), which extended eligibility to age 26, but unlike in commercial plans, TYA enrollees are required by law to cover the full cost of the program via a separate monthly premium.


For 2024, the monthly premium to cover a young adult is $637 for TYA Prime (up 12% from 2023) and $311 for TYA Select (up 7% from 2023.)


MOAA continues to advocate for a solution to the TRICARE young adult parity gap, and we need your grassroots support to remind lawmakers that military kids transitioning to adulthood lack the health care protections afforded to those in families covered by commercial health care plans. This fix is important not just for recent college graduates but also for military kids pursuing a career in the trades, making plans for post-graduate education, or choosing other professional paths that don’t provide employer-sponsored coverage.


The bipartisan Health Care Fairness for Military Families Act (H.R. 1045 | S. 956) would fix this parity gap by extending TRICARE eligibility to dependents up to age 26 without a separate monthly premium. This bill already has 89 co-sponsors in the House and 10 in the Senate; ask your lawmakers to join that list.


The young adults impacted by this coverage gap are the same military kids who grew up during two decades of war. They endured repeated separations while worrying about the safety of their parents during combat deployments – all that on top of moves, changing schools, and making new friends over and over again.


[RELATED: Understanding TRICARE Coverage for Your Young Adult Dependent]


So much is required of our military kids, yet we aren’t asking for anything special or extra – just a fix to TRICARE young adult eligibility, so military kids have the same health care protections afforded to their peers in civilian families.


Reach out to your lawmakers today on this issue and other MOAA priorities via our Legislative Action Center.


Have More Questions About Your Health Care Benefit?

MOAA's TRICARE Guide answers some commonly asked questions.


About the Author

Karen Ruedisueli
Karen Ruedisueli

Ruedisueli is MOAA’s Director of Government Relations for Health Affairs and also serves as co-chair of The Military Coalition’s (TMC) Health Care Committee. She spent six years with the National Military Family Association, advocating for families of the uniformed services with a focus on health care and military caregivers.