Military Advantage

'Backlog' Tricare Bills Spark Confusion Among Retirees

Humana bills received by Tricare Prime retirees in Jan., 2018 may be the result of a "backlog," officials said. (Military.com)
Humana bills received by Tricare Prime retirees in Jan., 2018 may be the result of a "backlog," officials said. (Military.com)

Some Tricare Prime retirees in the system's newly minted East region received a confusing letter this month telling them they owe money to Tricare contractor Humana, even though they already paid.

The letters, dated Jan. 19, tell beneficiaries they owe the system a $144.54 quarterly enrollment fee.

Several beneficiaries who received the letter told Military.com they paid their quarterly bill well before the date on the notice. When they called Humana, they said, representatives told them the letters were sent in error.

A Humana official, however, said the letters aren't an error so much as the payment and notice passing each other in the mail thanks to a Tricare enrollment freeze during December and the resulting system backlog.

That freeze was put in place so Tricare could update its system while rolling out a series of major changes Jan. 1, including putting in place new Tricare contractors and downsizing from three regions to two.

"In the instance of these letters, a backlog resulting from the Tricare enrollment freeze in December impacted the timing of some payments. ... As a result, the automated distribution of payment notices occurred before the beneficiary's premium payment was applied to the new Tricare policy," said Robert Bertrand, a Humana spokesman.

As part of the Jan. 1 changes, Humana took over Tricare's new East region, which combined Tricare North and South, while Health Net Federal Services took over Tricare West.

The inaccurate bills state, "If you have already submitted your payment for this month, please disregard this notice," Bertrand noted.

Users are always free to give Humana a call at 800-444-5445 with questions. (Our advice: Be careful how you dial that number.)

Retirees in Humana's Tricare East region may be a little jumpy when it comes to confusing notices, thanks to a pair of errors late last year.

First, Humana accidentally mailed letters to thousands of retirees who pay by allotment incorrectly notifying them that they needed to update their payment information or risk losing coverage.

Then, a second system glitch in late December failed to process the January enrollment allotment payments from more than 4,000 of the retirees who received the initial incorrect mailing.

Tricare officials said those users would not face a lapse in coverage.

"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 late December news release.

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

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