Military Advantage

6 Things to Know About the New Military Retiree Dental Coverage

A retiree gets his teeth examined, Nov. 15, 2013. (U.S. Air Force/Senior Airman Matthew Lotz)
A retiree gets his teeth examined, Nov. 15, 2013. (U.S. Air Force/Senior Airman Matthew Lotz)

Tricare's retiree dental program will shutter Dec. 31 after Congress last year ordered the Defense Department to instead push users into the Federal Employee Dental and Vision Insurance Program (FEDVIP) marketplace.

That means retirees will have more choice over what their plan covers and how much they pay -- but it also means they'll need to navigate a new system and new set of rules.

Will you be affected by the new military retiree dental plan? Here's what you need to know.

1. You must pick a plan during open enrollment this year. Although Tricare in the past allowed users to flit in and out of coverage for any reason, most civilian health care and dental plans don't allow that, including the plans available in the FEDVIP marketplace. That means this year you must select a plan during the annual open enrollment period, which runs Nov. 12 to Dec. 10.

2. Future changes must be paired with a qualifying life event. Other than open enrollment, the only time you'll be permitted to make plan changes is if you have what's known as a "qualifying life event." That could be something like a move, changing jobs or the birth of a baby. You can see the FEDVIP's qualifying life event list on its website.

3. If you do nothing, you won't have coverage. Tricare's retiree dental plan really is going away Dec. 31. Your coverage will not automatically roll over into another plan. That means if you don't select one during open enrollment, you won't have coverage -- and you won't be able to select a new plan until open enrollment rolls around again next year or you have one of those qualifying life events discussed above.

4. Retiring before Dec. 31? You have an extra step. If you're retiring before Dec. 31, 2018, and want dental coverage before that date, you'll need to enroll in Tricare's retiree dental plan and select a new plan during open enrollment. Yes, that's pretty annoying.

5. You can compare plans now ... sort of. The FEDVIP marketplace is loaded with dental plan information today. But it might be a good idea to wait to do your serious comparison shopping and planning until later this year. That's because the system's annual enrollment fees and plan changes won't be released until October. Before then, you won't be able to get a totally accurate picture of which plan might be best for you.

6. Look for sneaky plan waiting periods. If anyone in your family is receiving orthodontic care through Tricare's retiree dental plan between Dec. 31 of this year and Dec. 31, 2019, be extra careful to select the right plan. That's because many plans have a waiting period, often as long as a year, before they'll cover orthodontics. Just because you're receiving that care under the current Tricare retiree dental plan does not mean it will automatically be available for you without a wait under every new plan, officials told us.

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

This article was updated after FEDVIP officials clarified that none of their plans have waiting periods for work other than orthodontia. 

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