The end of the year is when many families wrap up financial matters, make charitable donations, and collect tax-related documents. If you have Tricare health insurance, the last quarter of the year also begins open enrollment season. Every year, you get to make elections for your health care, but this year there are special issues that demand your attention. Here are five tips to help you stay ahead of important Tricare deadlines.
Tip #1: Enroll or Change Plans Now
Open season comes every year from mid-November to mid-December. This is normally the only time you can make changes to your Tricare coverage unless you have a "qualifying life event". You may want to research how your existing plan plus competing plans are changing for the new year to see which is the best fit for you.
Tip #2: Start Cutting Out-of-Pocket Costs
For Group A Tricare sponsors, your catastrophic cap is typically $3,000 in one plan year. That’s the maximum out-of-pocket amount you are obligated to pay yourself. If you haven’t already done so, it’s time to figure out how much money you’ve paid toward your annual deductible.
If you find that your actual out-of-pocket expenses exceeded what you thought you’d pay, you may want to look at ways to limit costs:
- Use in-network providers
- Save all health care receipts and file all your claims
- Switch medications to mail order pharmacy
- Look into Tricare supplement insurance
Tricare supplement insurance is optional insurance you can buy that helps reimburse you for out-of-pocket expenses. If you’re trying to reduce cost by skipping doctor visits, avoiding specialists, or stretching medications, think again. An insurance supplement can help you get reimbursed for cost shares so you don’t feel the need to skimp on proper care.
Tip #3: Optimize Your Plan
Now is a great time to reassess your current plan.
- Did you have a baby or adopt a child? Did you get married or divorced? Did you move, retire, activate, or have any other significant life event? If so, you may need to change your plan.
- Did your dependents/spouse age out of/into different coverage?
- If you’re a retiree and your current employer offers insurance, how does Tricare compare to your employer-sponsored health plan? Should you switch?
- If you have Prime, are your service providers conveniently located?
A free and easy-to-use comparison sheet** is available to see how all Tricare plans compare today, and going forward for Group A and Group B. Pro tip: For some Tricare Prime beneficiaries who are not active duty, it actually makes sense to switch to Tricare Select and add a Tricare supplement insurance plan. If you aren’t near the coverage area or if you must routinely seek medical care outside your coverage area, you may find this combination of coverage is the best value to help save you money. This type of insurance is similar to CHAMPVA supplements or Medicare supplements, which are all designed to cover the gaps where government programs fall short.
Tip #4: Get Ready For New Deductible Resets
Your deductible now resets every year on January 1. Take the time to dig up your pharmacy and health care receipts so that you can get reimbursed for covered expenses. If you’re holding on to bills, now is the time to file a claim.
Tip #5: Update Your Online Information
Take the time to update all your Tricare contact information, payment information, and check DEERS. This is probably the easiest thing you can do to manage your health care, yet many people overlook it.
- Update DEERS with your current address, email, and phone. Be sure to report life event changes that affect your coverage, too.
- Watch for your regional contractor to send you information so you can set up electronic payments.
- Sign up for Tricarfe updates to help you navigate the next couple of years as changes take effect.
The Tricare checklist*** includes a comprehensive list of sites you should visit. Health care information is increasingly delivered paperless, so make sure you’re receiving the communications you need. It may seem overwhelming in the moment, but if you meet deadlines and work through these Tricare changes, you will minimize costs and secure your best health care option; which is a great way to start the New Year.
*TRICARE Changes: click here.