Starting Oct. 1, military retirees will see an increase in their annual enrollment fees for TRICARE Prime, the military’s managed health-care system.
According to TRICARE’s website, the fees for fiscal year 2013 will be $269.28 for retirees and $538.56 for retirees with family members. The National Defense Authorization Act for 2012 allows for the increase of enrollment fees on most retirees and their beneficiaries based on the annual cost-of-living adjustment given to military retirees.
“New enrollees were supposed to see an increase last year, effective Oct. 1, 2011,” said Richard Rollins, health benefits advisor at Fort Stewart’s Winn Army Community Hospital. “Of course, they wouldn’t know any difference because they’re enrolling for the first time.”
Rollins defined new enrollees as newly retired service members and those retirees switching from TRICARE Standard to TRICARE Prime. The enrollment fees for fiscal year 2012 were supposed to be $260 for individuals and $520 for retirees with family members. He said because the 2012 increase only applied to those enrolling after Oct. 1, 2011, those who already were in the program will notice a more substantial increase in their annual enrollment fees. Previously, their fees were $230 and $460, respectively.
Rollins pointed out two exception groups to the increase. He said enrollment fees for survivors of active-duty service members and medically retired service members, along with their family members, will remain frozen at the level they were when they first enrolled.
“Now if they ever dis-enroll from (Prime) then decide to come back to it, they will re-enter the program at whatever the enrollment fees are at that time,” he said.
Rollins also noted that active-duty service members and the families pay no enrollment fees for TRICARE Prime.
Although acknowledging that Congress was considering even higher increases in Prime enrollment fees, Rollins said there had been no official discussion locally. He reiterated the increases are based on the annual cost-of-living adjustment mandated by Congress.
He added there now is an option for retirees with children who’ve exceeded the age limit to qualify as a dependent family member under the Defense Enrollment Eligibility System in order to be covered under Prime.
“Usually, a (retired service member’s) son or daughter is eligible for TRICARE Prime coverage until they’re 21,” he said. “But if they’re attending an accredited college, they’re covered until age 23 or whenever they graduate, whichever comes first. Other dependent children who’re over age 21 but younger than 26 qualify for TRICARE Adult Program.”
Rollins said the enrollment fee for the standard program is $176 a month and $201 for the Prime program. He said fees are paid quarterly, so the sign-up cost would be three months of fees.
He recommended those retirees who are able should have the fees deducted from the retirement check. Otherwise, he said payments must be made via credit cards because checks and debit-card payments are no longer accepted.
For more information about TRICARE, including signing up for email updates, go to www.tricare.mil.