Tricare: Starting Out with the Basics

Tricare is the Department of Defense’s worldwide healthcare program designed for all service members, retirees, and their families.


How do I sign up?

In order to sign up for a Tricare plan, you must be enrolled in DEERS. This process has to be done with the help of your service member. You can read more here on how to be added into DEERS.

After you are in DEERS, research what plan type you want (and are eligible for) and know your region.

Over the Phone

Call the number that corresponds to your region and follow the prompts.

You can call the Tricare US West Region at 1-800-444-5445, which is run through Humana Military.

For the US East Region, call 1-844-866-9378, which is run through Health Net Federal Services.

For overseas areas, call the Eurasia-Africa area at +44-20-8762-8384. Call the Latin America and Canada areas at 1-215-942-8393. Call the Pacific area at +65-6339-2676.

Online

Sign in to the MilConnect website and follow the BWE (Beneficiary Web Enrollment) tab.

Follow the instructions listed on the page.

Mail (for overseas only)

Mail this enrollment form with your orders to your regional call center or Tricare service center.


What are the plan options?

Active Duty in the U.S

If you are an Active Duty dependent, you can chose from two options when receiving healthcare.

Option 1 – Prime

This option means that you are required to have a PCM, aka Primary Care Manager. They can see you for most health matters, and if you need specialty care, they can refer you to the correct specialist.

If you live more than 50 miles (or one hour) from a military installation, you may qualify for Prime Remote. The only difference is that most of your care may be through referrals to a closer doctor or physician.

Option 2 – Select

This option gives you free reign when seeing providers. You do not need a referral for care to be covered, but this option usually comes with out-of-pocket costs in the form of a yearly deductible or paying a percentage/flat rate for each visit.

Active Duty Overseas

If you are an Active Duty dependent living overseas, you can chose from two options when receiving healthcare.

Option 1 – Prime Overseas

This option means that you are required to have a PCM, aka Primary Care Manager. They can see you for most health matters, and if you need specialty care, they can refer you to a specialist.

If you live more than 50 miles (or one hour) from a military installation, you may qualify for Prime Remote Overseas. The only difference is that most of your care is through regional call centers.

Option 2 – Select Overseas

This option gives you free reign when seeing providers. You do not need a referral for care to be covered, but this option usually comes with out-of-pocket costs in the form of a yearly deductible or paying a percentage/flat rate for each visit.

Reserve/National Guard

If you are a National Guard or Reserve dependent and your sponsor is on military duty for less than 30 days, you may qualify to use and pay for Tricare Reserve Select.

This plan can be used worldwide, and you can see both in and out of network Tricare providers at little to no cost (depending on the provider).

You do not need referrals to receive care, but you may pay out-of-pocket costs. Some services may require you to pay the upfront costs and submit a claim for reimbursement later.

If you are a National Guard or Reserve dependent and your sponsor is activated (on military duty for more than 30 consecutive days), you qualify for all options available to Active Duty dependents.


Can I change my plan?

Yes and no.

If you have a QLE (Qualifying Life Event) and need or want to change your plan type, you can do so within a 90 day period, which starts the day the QLE occurs.

These can include marriage, the birth or adoption of a child, moving, entering or leaving active duty, and more. You can see the full list of QLE’s here.

If you do not fall into one of these scenarios, you have to wait to change your plan type until “Tricare Open Season”, which occurs from mid November through mid December.


What is covered?

Writing out everything that is covered and not covered could be an entire blog in and of itself…

So I’ll leave that to the Tricare website.

You can type in medical conditions, services, or browse a drop-down menu with different types of care to see what is covered.


My experience

I have had the chance to use both Tricare Prime and Tricare Select (my husband is Active Duty in the US).

If you have the choice between the two, I would recommend different ones for different situations.

Are you super healthy and rarely ever need to see a doctor? I would recommend Prime. Your PCM will be able to take care of most, if not all, of your health needs, and you will have almost no out-of-pocket expenses.

On the other hand, if your medical situation requires many types of care/doctors, I would chose Select. You will have the freedom to see whatever doctors you need wherever you are.

There have been many occasions where I needed to see a specialist pretty quickly, but needed a referral before doing so. If you know you have many health issues, I would recommend Select.

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