By Debbie Gregory.
Thanks to changes in the annual defense department bill, passed by both the House and Senate, military families will have easier access to urgent care and primary care.
Awaiting President Obama’s signature before becoming law, the bill ensures out-of-pocket costs won’t change for most Tricare users who are already enrolled in the system.
Unfortunately for future service members and their families, plans call for fees and co-payments to be collected from those entering service and/or enrolling in health plans beginning in 2018. Retirees and family members now enrolled in Tricare Standard will have to pay an annual enrollment fee of $150 for singles and $300 for families starting in 2020.
Among the improvements are urgent care referrals will no longer be required, allowing greater access to care.
Some military medical treatment facilities will keep urgent care services open until 11 p.m. daily. Defense department officials would determine the locations where these extra hours would be needed, and they’d have 365 days from the bill’s signing to get the plan in place.
Hours at primary care clinic military medical treatment facilities (MTF) would also expand, if needed. Again, the Defense Department would determine the appropriate hours for primary care clinics at MTFs based on the ability to meet access standards and patients’ patterns of using primary care. This would be implemented within six months after the bill is signed into law.
The legislation would retire the Tricare Standard and Tricare Extra programs as of the end of next year. The new program, Tricare Select, would take effect January, 2018. Current Standard/Extra users would enroll in either the new Select program or Tricare Prime.
Tricare Select will come with higher out-of-pocket costs for beneficiaries of anyone entering service after Jan. 1, 2018.
Tricare Prime will remain free for all active-duty families — no enrollment fees, deductibles or out-of-pocket co-payments.