Bill Would Let Children Stay On Parents' Tricare Plan Until Age 26

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Maj. Roger Williams looks inside the ear of a patient to check the patient's condition at the TMC in Camp Humphreys.
Maj. Roger Williams looks inside the ear of a patient to check the patient's condition at the TMC in Camp Humphreys, South Korea. (U.S. Army/ Chung Il Kim)

A Virginia congresswoman is proposing that military dependents who lose Tricare eligibility when they turn 21, or later if they are students, be allowed to remain on their parents' health plan until age 26 without paying monthly premiums.

Rep. Elaine Luria, a Democrat whose district includes numerous military installations, including Naval Air Station Oceana and Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story, introduced a bill Thursday to allow young adults to stay on Tricare.

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Currently, dependent children of active-duty or retired personnel lose their Tricare eligibility at age 21, or age 23 if they are full-time students. Then, they must find other health insurance or they can purchase Tricare Young Adult coverage, which costs between $228 and $376 a month.

Luria said the measure, which would be retroactive to Jan. 1, is important for families facing financial hardship during the novel coronavirus pandemic and beyond.

"The Affordable Care Act allows young adults to stay on their parents' health plans until age 26; however, military families do not receive this same benefit under Tricare," Luria said in a statement. "During this public health emergency, it is more important than ever to provide our service members and their families with affordable and accessible health care."

Tricare Young Adult was created in 2011 following passage of the Affordable Care Act, which allowed adult children to remain on their parents' health plans until age 26. Military service members were exempt from the national health care reform law, so separate legislation was required to extend the benefit.

However, the legislation required that the cost of Tricare Young Adult be covered by the program, necessitating premiums based on commercial insurance rates and coverage.

The monthly cost of Tricare Young Adult often comes as a shock to military families, since active-duty members don't pay enrollment fees or premiums for Tricare Prime, and retiree families pay either $600 a year for Tricare Prime or no enrollment fees or premiums for Tricare Select.

Luria's Health Care Fairness for Military Families Act would extend those programs, which cost significantly less than most insurance plans, to adults under age 26 under the same parameters as the Affordable Care Act, which allows children under 26 to be added or kept on their parents plan even if they are married, have access to an employer health plan and don't live with their parents.

Roughly 37,000 adult children of military personnel or retirees are enrolled in Tricare Young Adult.

While Luria's bill has been introduced in the House, it has yet to be considered by the House Armed Services Committee, which would decide whether it should move forward in the legislative process.

The House is set to develop its version of the National Defense Authorization legislation, which sets military personnel policy each year, beginning the week of June 22.

-- Patricia Kime can be reached at Patricia.Kime@Monster.com. Follow her on Twitter @patriciakime.

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