Tricare Payment Glitch Snags 4,000 Retirees

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More than 4,000 retired Tricare Prime users in the northern U.S. may not have paid their January enrollment fees due to a glitch caused during a contractor change this month.

The problem affects 4,053 retired Tricare Prime users in the current North region who pay their annual fees by paycheck allotment on a prorated monthly basis. Rather than pull those payments from their upcoming paycheck as would normally happen, the system skipped those over users.

Tricare for Life users were not affected by the issue.

Beneficiaries who were impacted will continue to have Tricare coverage despite the non-payment, officials said.

"There will be no lapse in coverage for affected beneficiaries and no one will be disenrolled from Tricare as a result of this error," Tricare officials said in a news release.

Starting Jan. 1 Tricare's U.S. users will be covered by two regions -- Tricare East and West -- instead of three. The allotment error occurred as Humana Military, the new East region contractor, moved Tricare North users into its system.

Retired Tricare Prime users pay an annual enrollment fee. Starting Jan. 1 those fees are $289.08 for a single user or $578.16 for a family.

Retirees can select to pay their annual enrollment fee as monthly payments through allotments -- $24.09 for a single user or $48.18 for a family -- or as the single lump sum. Because of a new change from a fiscal to calendar year system, that lump sum payment is now due in January.

For most retiree Tricare Prime users, allotment payments were automatically stopped to the current Tricare North contractor, HealthNet, and restarted to Humana in a process that was supposed to be transparent to beneficiaries.

But the 4,053 users impacted by the glitch were missed when those allotments were restarted.

"When the beneficiary data files were transferred from the outgoing managed care support contractor to the incoming contractor, all payments by allotment were stopped," the Tricare release said. "Unfortunately, 4,053 Prime beneficiaries in the former North region were not included in the data file to start new allotments with the incoming contractor in the East region. This error was discovered during the transition reconciliation process."

Those same users impacted by the missed allotments also are likely among those impacted by an earlier Humana error in which letters were erroneously sent to many Tricare Prime retiree users in the current North region. That letter notified those retiree users that they must update their payment information with Humana or lose coverage. That letter was a mistake, a Tricare spokesman said at the time.

"If you received a notice about making automatic payments through a credit card or bank fund transfer and are currently using allotment for payment, please disregard the notification," the Humana site said. "We appreciate your patience and apologize for any confusion this may have caused."

Retirees should be able to see whether or not they are among the impacted users by checking their January paycheck for the missed allotment, Tricare officials said.

Humana will be sending letters to those impacted users asking for a one-time payment of the missed amount, Tricare officials said. It can be paid by calling Humana at 1-800-444-5445 or by visiting Humana's website.

Officials said they are still determining how to follow-up with any users who don't receive the Humana notice or pay the fee. Tricare will never call soliciting payments, they said.

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

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