Military Advantage

What Is Tricare 'Open Enrollment?' What to Know Before It's Too Late

Lt. Cmdr. Michelle Finley, a nurse practitioner with Naval Branch Health Clinic Mayport’s Medical Home Port Pink Team, checks Abbigail Engle’s heart during a routine exam. (U.S. Navy/Jacob Sippel)
Lt. Cmdr. Michelle Finley, a nurse practitioner with Naval Branch Health Clinic Mayport’s Medical Home Port Pink Team, checks Abbigail Engle’s heart during a routine exam. (U.S. Navy/Jacob Sippel)

Time is running out for military families and retirees to participate in the military's first-ever open enrollment period. And while users have a little more time outside of the window to make some health care plan changes, other changes time out completely Dec. 10.

Here's what you need to know.

Tricare's Open Season Ends Dec. 10

For the first time ever, Tricare this year is running an "open season," a concept familiar to those who have used insurance plans outside of the military. Typically lasting a few weeks to a month, open seasons are windows for consumers to review and make changes to their insurance plans before getting locked in at specific rates and coverage levels for the next year. Users can otherwise make changes only if they experience a "qualifying life event" (QLE), such as a move or the birth of a baby.

Congress ordered Tricare to adopt such a system as part of a series of changes that were rolled out in January, which included adding a new rate structure and renaming Tricare Standard to Tricare Select.

Even though the Tricare open season technically ends Dec. 10, this year is being used as sort of a test period. Families and retirees technically have through Dec. 31 to make needed changes before Tricare moves completely into the new rules.

That means starting Jan. 1, you'll be able to change between Tricare Prime and Tricare Select only if you meet one of those QLE requirements. A complete list of QLEs is available here.

But the most important thing for military families to know is that, while the list does include the birth of a baby, it does not include pregnancy. That means women who think they might want to have a baby next year and want to be in the Tricare Select system for that pregnancy should switch now.

New Vision Coverage Enrollment Ends Dec. 10

For the first time ever, both active-duty military family members and military retirees have access to vision insurance through the Federal Employees Dental and Vision Insurance Program (FEDVIP).

The optional coverage is in addition to the annual eye exam provided by Tricare and covers things like glasses.

Like the Tricare open season, the FEDVIP open enrollment ends Dec. 10. Military families who do not experience a QLE over the course of the year will have to wait until November 2019 to buy-in or change their vision coverage. That's because, unlike Tricare, which is still available for changes through the end of the year despite the end of open season, FEDVIP is not.

Retirees and families can enroll on the FEDVIP website.

Retirees Must Change Dental Plans or Go Without

Retirees who are currently using Tricare's dental program and want to continue with dental coverage in the new year must enroll in a new plan by Dec. 10 or face going without.

That's because the Tricare dental program, currently provided through Delta Dental, is ending. Military retirees must instead select a plan through FEDVIP.

Unlike Tricare's current program, FEDVIP comes with a buffet of options. While it's impossible to recommend plans that may be right for every beneficiary, a Military.com analysis found the FEDVIP Delta Dental PPO Standard plan is similar to Tricare's current coverage.

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

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