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How the 2018 Tricare Changes Impact Tricare for Life Users

Airman 1st Class Luvens Rorshack draws blood from retired Army chaplain John Rasmussen in the Medical Treatment Facility on F.E. Warren Air Force Base, April 18, 2015. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Malcolm Mayfield)
Airman 1st Class Luvens Rorshack draws blood from retired Army chaplain John Rasmussen in the Medical Treatment Facility on F.E. Warren Air Force Base, April 18, 2015. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Malcolm Mayfield)

Almost all types of Tricare coverage will face sweeping changes, upgrades and reforms in 2018 resulting from legislation passed last year and a contractor changeover.

The only part of Tricare that won't be dramatically impacted is Tricare for Life.

That's because Tricare for Life, used by military retirees over age 65, isn't like the Defense Health Agency's other plans. Rather than provide stand-alone comprehensive coverage, Tricare for Life pairs with Medicare Part B as wrap-around coverage.

Quick Facts:

  • Tricare's major changes impact almost all plans, including active-duty families and military retirees.
  • Tricare for Life is almost entirely exempt for the changes.
  • The only change to Tricare for Life is a shift in the annual date deductibles and cost caps reset.

Like many of Tricare's other plans, Tricare for Life includes an annual deductible that users must pay out-of-pocket when receiving care. Tricare for Life users pay a deductible of $150 per individual or $300 per family in circumstances where services are used that Medicare does not cover. Also like other plans, those beneficiaries have a maximum amount they will pay out-of-pocket in any given year of $3,000, known as a "catastrophic cap."

In the past, both of those costs -- the deductible and the cap -- reset every Oct. 1 with the new fiscal year. But starting in 2018, that will no longer be the case.

That means for the remainder of 2017 only, all users who have hit their cap have an extra three months -- October, November and December of this year -- to receive care without additional fees. Those who have not yet hit their cap or deductibles will continue to pay toward the fee ceilings.

Like Tricare's other plans, starting in 2018 Tricare for Life will instead reset every Jan. 1, bringing the plans in line with the annual calendar used by most health insurers, as well as Medicaid and Medicare.

-- Amy Bushatz can be reached at amy.bushatz@military.com.