Big changes are coming to the military's healthcare insurance program known as Tricare.
For the first time, those using Tricare can take part in an open enrollment season akin to civilian healthcare, allowing users to change or keep their current plan. In addition, military retirees will no longer receive dental benefits through Tricare, but will be able to obtain them through the Office of Personnel Management's Federal Employees Vision Insurance Plan. And family members of active duty personnel, as well as reservists and retirees, will also be eligible to receive greatly expanded vision coverage, according to Patrick Grady, interim chief of the Tricare health plan.
There are about 9.5 million active duty service personnel, family members and military retirees enrolled in the Tricare system, including about 110,000 in the Tampa-St. Petersburg area, said Grady, a retired Army colonel.
The changes, Grady said, were mandated by the 2017 Defense Department spending bill.
Before the changes were implemented, enrollees could opt out of the Tricare Prime plan and switch to the Tricare Select plan, but could not switch back to Prime for 12 months, Grady said.
Under the Prime plan, enrollees are assigned a primary care manager who manages healthcare issues and sends out enrollees for referrals. The Select plan is more like a civilian Preferred Provider Option, in which enrollees select a primary care health provider.
Retirees should take particular note of changes to dental insurance, Grady said. If retirees don't select a new dental plan, they won't have any dental coverage come Jan. 1.
There are 11 dental plans available to retirees, ranging in price from around $20-$40 per month for individuals, and $60-$140 per month for families.
In addition, there are also eight vision plans available to everyone eligible for Tricare coverage. They range in price from around $7-$14 per month for individuals, and $20-$43 per month for families.
John Ivins, 60, of Lithia, said he liked having the additional choice.
"I selected Tricare Prime, and an additional dental and vision policy for myself and my family," said Ivins, who spent 26 years in the Army. He compared and selected plans on line.
"It was easy," he said. "The website was much like the Federal Marketplace website, easy to 'navi-guess' through. The most difficult part was comparing plan options."
The Tricare open enrollment period began Nov. 12 and ends Dec. 10.
Contact Howard Altman at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 225-3112. Follow @haltman