Tricare users soon will be blocked for more than three weeks from making changes to their plans or primary-care providers thanks to the system's upcoming shift to a new pair of contractors and region shake-up.
The blackout will run from Dec. 1 to Dec. 23, officials said. During that period no changes -- including switching from Tricare Prime to Tricare Standard -- will be made or processed through the Tricare website, by phone, mail or fax.
Users have through Nov. 20 to make any changes through Tricare's website. After that, all changes must be made by phone or fax directly to the regional contractor, officials said.
Tricare officials said users should do their best to make any changes no later than Nov. 20.
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The freeze is just one part of a series of major Tricare changes that will hit Jan. 1. The system's three U.S. regions will be combined into two; Tricare Standard will be known as Tricare Select; and a new fee structure will change costs paid out-of-pocket by many users, among other changes.
Officials said they have created a workaround for users who plan to purchase Tricare through Tricare Reserve Select, Tricare Retired Reserve or Tricare Young Adult but don't qualify to do so until after the blackout starts.
Those users can call the current regional contractor directly to enroll in coverage and pay the required premiums. They will be given a temporary notification letter from the contractor noting their enrollment status, and will be able to present it to providers until the freeze has lifted and their enrollment can be processed, officials said.
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