Some Troops, Families Could Owe Thousands to Keep Tricare

Army Col. Evan Renz explains the function of a vacuum-assisted closure device to Indalecio Morales while Morales' wife, Maribel, looks on in the U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research Burn Center at San Antonio Military Medical Center. (U.S. Army/Lori Newman)
Army Col. Evan Renz explains the function of a vacuum-assisted closure device to Indalecio Morales while Morales' wife, Maribel, looks on in the U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research Burn Center at San Antonio Military Medical Center. (U.S. Army/Lori Newman)

Troops and family members who missed monthly Tricare premium payments due to a contractor swap Jan. 1 must make up missed payments, as well as pay one to two months in advance to reinstate coverage, Tricare officials confirmed Monday.

When Tricare shifted regions and contractors Jan. 1, premium payment information was reset for thousands of beneficiaries in the West region and former North region. Those users were sent letters by mail in November notifying them to update their payment information or risk losing coverage entirely after Jan. 1.

Tricare Young Adult, Reserve Select and Retired Reserve users pay monthly premiums for coverage, while retired Prime users can make annual or monthly payments.

Active-duty families, seniors on Tricare for Life and retirees using Tricare Select do not pay monthly premium fees.

As of late last month, 45,000 Tricare beneficiaries or households were missing payment information.

To fix the issue, those users could be required to pay up to thousands of dollars out of pocket at once, depending on their plan, officials said.

Tricare Retired Reserve and Tricare Young Adult users must pay five months out of pocket to keep their plans -- three months retroactively to Jan. 1 and two months in advance, officials said.

Those on Tricare Reserve Select and retired Tricare Prime users who do not pay by paycheck allotment must pay for the three missed months and one month in advance, according to Tricare's website.

For beneficiaries using the Tricare Retired Reserve family plan who reinstate coverage immediately, that means almost $5,192 out of pocket -- $1038.31 each for the three missed months, as well as April and May premiums in advance. For a Tricare Young Adult Prime user who fixes the payment issue immediately, that means $1,620 for retroactive and continued coverage.

Tricare officials said all beneficiaries using those plans should check to make sure their payment information is up to date, including those who updated it by late December as instructed in the November notices.

That's because a separate Tricare system freeze over December caused an unknown number of updates made before the due date to be lost, officials said last month.

Tricare officials warned that users who do not fix the payment problem within 150 days of the last payment, which likely was made Dec. 1, must wait a full year before they can re-enroll.

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

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