Here’s how to get ready for upcoming TRICARE changes
(Photo: William Beaumont Army Medical Center Public Affairs Office , Marcy Sanchez)

Changes to TRICARE will be implemented January 1, 2018, but that doesn’t mean you can’t start researching and preparing now. Depending on what services and benefits you use and where you live, you might not be affected. . . or you might see major changes. That’s why staying ahead of TRICARE changes is vitally important.

Regional changes

TRICARE service and providers are broken into various regions. On January 1, 2018, the North and South TRICARE regions will merge, becoming the East region. If you’re in the West region, the merge won’t affect you. You’ll be contacted by your regional provider with more information.

Name changes

Your plan’s nomenclature might change in January, too. TRICARE Standard will be renamed to TRICARE Select; in 2018, enrollment will be automatic, if you’re already enrolled in Standard. Enrollment to Select will be annual from that point forward; you’ll need to enroll every year.

Costs and fees

TRICARE Select will have an annual premium that will be your responsibility. Single users and families will see premiums based on their rank and can be checked here. There are exemptions for the premium, if you fall into one of a few categories. While military families with a member currently serving will see no cost increase for the catastrophic cap this year, retirees’ will increase from $3,000 to $3,500.

Annual premium and catastrophic cap increases will be tied to cost of living increases in the future–so these numbers will change with time.

Take these steps

The first– and probably most intuitive–is to review your information in DEERS. Make sure that all information is correct, especially if you’ve had a major life event (like a birth or a marriage).  Pay particular attention to phone numbers, addresses, and email addresses so that you don’t miss any communications from TRICARE that may affect you.

If you’re enrolled in TRICARE Prime, TRICARE Young Adult, TRICARE Reserve Select, TRICARE Retired Reserve, or the Continued Health Benefit Program, you’ll stay enrolled in your current plan once the new year hits. If you’ve got TRICARE Standard right now, you’ll automatically be enrolled in TRICARE Select.

Next, make sure that you’ve signed up for TRICARE updates. You can do this right now– you don’t have to wait until January 1.

If you’re choosing to make electronic payments, you can update your electronic payment information starting October 1, 2017. Your TRICARE regional contractor should contact you to do this. . . so make sure your DEERS information is correct.

Beginning November 1, you’ll be notified if your regional contractor will change and regional directories of providers will be made available. Once they are, spend time making sure that your provider is still listed.  By November 20, the new East and West regional contractor’s call center will be open for calls.

By January 1, the Explanation of Benefits are going paperless and will only be electronic, unless you ask for a hard copy. This will come by mail.

By J.G. Noll