What’s the Deal on TRICARE

Recently a reader wrote in with some questions.  Here are some answers I provided, many are of general interest, so I republish them anonymously here:

One concern this reader has is about the “Stay Navy” retirement calculator I link to here at Retired Pay World.

The Navy site “throws” a warning about the security certificate when people visit for the first time.  You can see my explanation below.  So far as I am concerned it is perfectly safe, but I can’t control how the webmaster there chooses to run his/her site. 

Here’s the issue with that warning.  Sad to say, most government computer systems administrators refuse to buy the commercial security certificates the rest of the world uses to certify their web site ownership.

They seem to figure that since you wouldn’t get these security warnings if you were coming to the site via a computer already inside the military (.mil) domain, you wouldn’t get these warnings they can ignore the civilian side of the equation.  I can assure you I use that site all the time and there have been no problems with it, but especially in a work situation you need to talk with your local systems admin/network security guy.

You can give that site an "exception" after the initial message about the security certificate and it will work normally ever after, but right now, like a lot of things military, the situation is what it is.  Sorry about that, it’s outside my control.

Now let’s move on to the real questions.  Are you a retied active duty member or a "gray area" retired reservist/guards,am waiting to draw retired pay at age 60?  Your statement abut TRICARE starting at age 60 makes me think you might be a reservist, but I can only guess.

If you are retied from the active forces or retired from the reserves and drawing pay, the good news is, TRICARE "Standard" is free for life.  It’s a benefit given to retirees to make up for what many call the "broken promise" of free medical care for life that used to be made to servicemen.  My personal experience with TRICARE in the States has been good. I had a very good health care plan through my Federal Civil Service retirement, when I went to the doc I always showed them my military retied ID first, they made a claim to TRICARE and I used my federal plan to cover most of any difference.

TRICARE also operates a very economical Mail Order Pharmacy, which is also free for life.

The bad news is, at age 65 you will automatically be signed up for Medicare Part A (hospital care) and Part B (doctors and other outpatient care).  Part A is free, Part B costs … this year it is about $110 a month.  Part B requires a monthly premium for life.  But Part B is optional.  You can decline it and you won’t be charged.  Two factors to consider

Your company’s medical insurance (which you hint that you are considering keeping) … may essentially require you to have Medicare Part B.  Typically health plans expect that over 65, you look to Medicare to provide care first, then the commercial company "picks up the slack".  You need to explore this issue with them … can you even keep the insurance in retirement without Medicare Part B. and specifically, what will it cost?

Second factor … TRICARE.  remember I said it’s free for life?  Well, technically TRICARE itself _is_ free, but at age 65 you will automatically be converted from TRICARE Standard to TRICARE For Life (TFL).  TFL requires you have Medicare Part B … works the same as most commercial plans.  You see doctors of your choice, you submit through Medicare and what Medicare doesn’t cover, TFL will.

It sounds to me as if no one has explained TRICARE to you very well.  You may want to start here: http://www.tricare.mil/mybenefit/  They have a world of information available thee … there are other "flavors" of TRICARE aside from the standard plan you are automatically under now which are available to those residing in the US.  There are also many supplementary plans that add on to TRICARE through organizations like the Reserve Officers Association (ROA) http://www.roa.org/site/PageServer  Non-Commissioned Officers Association http://www.ncoausa.org/ and other worthy groups.

Hope this will be of some help.

Best regards

Dave

MSgt, USAFR (ret)