Saturday, March 26, 2011

Count Your Blessings: Tricare

Tricare gets a bad rap in the military world.  Whenever you hear milspouses talking about Tricare, it's typically bitching and moaning.  

Friends, let me tell you something.  Tricare sucks...until you don't have it anymore.  Someone cue the Janet Jackson...



While we were on Active Duty, we enjoyed the benefit of having Tricare Prime (and Tricare Prime Remote while he was in Korea).  I never paid a co-pay, I didn't think twice about making a doctor's appointment if it was necessary, I had regular women's and dental exams, etc.  DH and I are pretty healthy people, so I don't tend to need medical care that often, but when I did, Tricare was there.  The only thing I had to supplement was my vision insurance, so that I could get the contacts and glasses that I've been wearing since age 12.  Luckily, vision plans through my work have always been fairly inexpensive (+/- $15 a month).

As a reservist, you lose out on those Tricare benefits.  Sure, we could be covered if DH was medically discharged and had a high percentage rate, but he wasn't (which I'm thankful for).  There is a transition program (TAMP) to help cover you after you end your military service, but no one gives clear information about it.  We were told we couldn't get it, then DH was told that we had it, etc, etc.  So, the entire time when I thought I wasn't covered, I really could've gone to the doctor.

Tricare does offer insurance to reservists, but Prime is no longer an option - it's Tricare Standard or nothing at all!  Standard is the military equivalent of a PPO, as you know, and I really prefer Prime (which is like an HMO).  I don't require a lot of specialized care, so I would much rather go to a general practitioner for free, then to pay co-pays.  So, not only do you not have a choice anymore, but you also have to pay monthly premiums.  Lest I sound like a complete whiny, crybaby, poopy pants, I know that the $197.76 monthly family premium is a lot less than what many civilians pay.  However, when you're essentially a one income family supporting three adults, the cost becomes a concern.  There's not many options either - we can insure DH alone, or insure all of us as a family.  There's no option for a dual military family to get a reduced rate for two service members and a dependent(s).

United Concordia (Tricare's dental provider) has a lot more options for coverage.  You can insure the service member, only one family member, all of the family members, or the service member and all family members.  This works out a lot better for us, since we can opt to insure just DD (dear daughter) right now.  The cost is more expensive for us again - AD families can insure their entire family for the amount that it'll cost us to just insure DD.

Now, I'm not saying that it's not a fair system, or that we should be entitled to the same benefits as active duty families, because I don't believe that to be so.  The assumption being made here is that a reservist has another job that may be covering their insurance and/or bringing in significantly more money than military pay, which isn't true for us, sadly.  I also know we're fortunate to have the option of insurance, as many families do not.

As a dual military family, I'll soon be considered on active duty status when I'm at BMT, which is going to be a great boost to our family income.  I know we're not the first ever dual military family, so you'd think that Tricare and DEERS would have this system figured out already.  Wrong!  When I asked about how our premiums and coverage would work when I began active duty, they said I had to manually switch DD over to my social security number in DEERS in order for her to be covered, as well as switch her to Tricare Prime.  Apparently children can only be covered under one social security number.  Don't ask me why the system can't recognize two military family members and automatically charge at the lower rate of whomever is active at that time.  It's ridiculous, really, since I'm sure I'm not the first person with this issue.  I wasn't originally planning to put DD as a dependent of mine, but I guess I am now.  It makes no sense for us to pay reserve premiums while I'm on active duty.  The whole thing sounds like another logistical nightmare for me to handle prior to my departure.

My own rambling and whining aside, the moral of this story is...

if you're active duty, love thy Tricare

...you'll miss it when it's gone and you're no longer entitled to that benefit - and yes - it IS a benefit.

PS.  I almost forgot!  When we were purchasing said plans yesterday, we received an email from United Concordia, saying our policy was declined and our money refunded, because DD doesn't live in our household.  They told us we needed to update our DEERS.  Uh, now I know we're not the first non-custodial parents on the block!  C'mon, really?  So now DH has to attempt to handle all of this nonsense on Monday.

11 comments:

kelsaha said...

what do you know about the dental stuff? I can't seem to understand.

Sarah said...

I know full well the major benefit we have with Tri-Care. I used to pay for my own insurance before we got married, with Blue Cross/ Blue Shield, and I get WAY MORE with TriCare. It's an awesome service! Sometimes I don't like the way the system is run, but THANK GOD to have medical insurance.

Erin said...

@kelsaha - Basically, they said there was an error in DEERS and because I put down DD's address as her mom's place (versus ours), they're saying they can't cover her. We have to call DEERS and United Concordia again on Monday and get everything straightened out.

@Sarah - I know you do, having worked in the medical and dental fields! I'm thankful that we'll be covered again, and hopefully our financial situation will improve. I want that protection, if need be!

Our Little Fam said...

I am grateful for Tri-Care too! Veryyy thankful! :)

New follower :)

Lou said...

Havent had to use tricare yet, but thankful to even have insurance!

Erin said...

@Our Little Fam - Thanks for the follow!

@Lou - Seriously, I remember being without insurance at your age, in that weird gap between college and my first marriage.

Nicole said...

I'm thankful to have insurance HOWEVER....I have had Tricare for a year and they don't allow me to make appointments. I have been to Naval and Tricare MANY times and they still can't make an appointment for me. It's awful. I'd rather be back on Mass health.

Dental however is amazing.

Taryn said...

After having to pay for the TERRIBLE/GOD-AWFUL insurance through Olive Garden? I couldn't even begin to tell you how grateful I was for an 80/20 from TriCare Prime Remote. Especially since the OG insurance was a crock ... everyone that has it always comes back from the doctor's office cringing. We kinda wonder what the heck we pay for ... since 2 weeks later: there's a pretty big bill from the doctor's office full of labs etc that our insurance didn't cover. :(

Good luck figuring out all the snarky details with this ... it's totally BOGUS that DD "can't be covered" because she doesn't live with you...

Kimberly In Seattle said...

Great post! It's so true :-) I had it and lost it when I was divorced in 2007.

Michelle said...

Left you an award on my blog! Hope you had a good weekend!

Erin said...

@Nicole - How do they not "allow" you to make appointments? That's really odd!

@Taryn - Oh happy day when you became a milspouse! ;)

@Kimberly - Thanks, I know you've been there!

@Michelle - Thanks hon, going now!