Starting in 2019, military retirees will have dental and vision coverage outside of Tricare, while active-duty families will have access to vision coverage for the first time ever, thanks to a law passed by Congress in 2018.
New Dental Insurance Plan
In 2019, the Tricare Retiree Dental Plan (TRDP) is going away.
Those covered under that plan who wish to keep coverage will be required to sign up for the Federal Employees Dental and Vision Insurance Program (FEDVIP), which is the same program used by civil service members and retirees.
The new dental plan will offer coverage options from 10 insurers, with each providing at least two different levels of coverage: standard and high. The high level typically offers a greater range of services and lower co-pay amounts than the standard version, but comes with a higher monthly cost.
Under both the current TRDP and the upcoming FEDVIP, monthly premiums are based on location. The premiums for both TRDP and FEDVIP are similar, so users may not experience a price jump, depending on the plan they choose.
For example, someone getting family coverage in Zone E, which is made up of 27 states, pays $115 each month under the current TRDP, while the same person using FEDVIP would pay between $60 and $175 each month, depending on the insurance plan they choose.
Compared to TRDP, the new plans will offer a greater choice of dentists and more coverage options that retirees can tailor to their specific needs.
New Vision Insurance Plan
Even bigger news is that in 2019 most retirees and active-duty family members will be newly eligible to enroll in the FEDVIP vision insurance program.
Vision coverage is currently not part of the Tricare program. While beneficiaries now receive one free standard eye exam each year or every other year, depending on their plan and whether they are diabetic, exams for contacts are not covered, nor are glasses or contacts themselves.
But under the FEDVIP vision program, you will not only have a covered eye exam but, depending on your choice of coverage, you may be able to get glasses, contacts or both for free or a very deep discount. Tricare will continue its current eye exam coverage system for those who do not enroll in the new vision plan.
Currently, there are four different insurers available in the FEDVIP vision program. Monthly family premiums range from $19 to $43.
Like the FEDVIP dental program, you will be able to choose from a greater number of eye care providers than are currently a part of the Tricare networks, and tailor your coverage to fit your individual needs.
If you are currently enrolled in TRDP, you will have to enroll in a FEDVIP dental plan during open season or you will lose your dental insurance in 2019.
If you want to enroll in the FEDVIP vision plan, you must also do it during open season. This year's open season runs from Nov. 12, 2018, through Dec. 10, 2018. You can make changes to your insurance each year during open season or when you experience a "qualifying life event" such as a job change, move or birth of a child.
While the enrollment period may seem like a long way off, if you are thinking about enrolling in either of these programs, it is probably a good idea to check them out ahead of time. The large number of plans and options can be pretty confusing.
If you plan on getting major dental work done, doing your homework can possibly save you a bunch of money. The new plan may be a lot cheaper than the current one, or vice versa.
Also, if you have kids who need braces, some insurance plans under FEDVIP require you to be enrolled for 12 months before insurance will pay for orthodontic care.
For More Information
Check out the BENEFEDS/Tricare website for details on switching over or enrolling in the new plans. You can also check out the Office of Personnel Management's Dental & Vision insurance page for plan costs and coverage.
-- Jim Absher can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.