Transitioning from military to civilian health coverage

Compare health insurance quotes.
Find affordable health insurance and apply online.

Transitioning from military to civilian health coverage

Leaving the military often marks the beginning of a civilian career or moving to another region of the country. Whatever the circumstances, you'll need to prepare to switch health plans. Here's information on navigating the transition with the least amount of upheaval.
 
When do I lose military health benefits? If you are enrolled in TRICARE, the federal government's health-care program for active duty and retired members of the uniformed services and their families, you may lose eligibility when you voluntarily separate from active duty. Your dependent child loses coverage when he or she turns 21, or at 23 if your child is a full-time student. Surviving family members of a military service member who is killed on duty remain eligible for TRICARE for 3 years.
 
Is transitional coverage available? Certain military members who are separating from active duty and their family members may be eligible for 180 days of transitional benefits under the "Transitional Assistance Management Program" (TAMP). For more information about TAMP eligibility, sponsors or family members may visit the TRICARE Web site at www.tricare.osd.mil or contact their TRICARE Service Center representative. A list of regional toll-free numbers is available at the TRICARE web site.
 
May I continue receiving TRICARE coverage? If you lose TRICARE eligibility under TAMP or if you never qualified for TAMP but are no longer able to receive TRICARE benefits, you may be eligible for temporary coverage under the Continued Health Care Benefit Program (CHCBP). This program is not part of TRICARE but provides similar benefits. To obtain coverage under CHCBP, you must enroll within 60 days after separating from active duty or losing eligibility for military health care. The federal government maintains a contract with Humana Military Healthcare Services Inc. in Louisville, Ky., to administer CHCBP.
 
What happens when I lose TRICARE eligibility? A so-called "Certificate of Credible Coverage" (CoCC) is issued to you or to family members who lose TRICARE benefits. The CoCC is proof that you had previous health-care coverage under TRICARE. You may need to show this document to your new health insurer to reduce the amount of time you'll have to wait for coverage of any pre-existing health conditions under your new health plan. If you had 12 months of continuous coverage under TRICARE, federal law prohibits commercial health plans from imposing any pre-existing condition exclusion.
 
What are my health insurance options as a civilian? Military separation presents a good time to explore all the options, especially if you're considering establishing a small business of your own or becoming self-employed. Additionally, while many employers offer health insurance packages as part of the company's benefits, some do not. And in some cases, individual health insurance may offer options not available by an employer.
 
It's important to take the transition time offered under TRICARE to look at individually-purchased health insurance plans. You can look at plans online, through health insurance companies and through an insurance agent. Take your time, and consider what works best for you.
 
What difficulties might I encounter? It's likely that you'll encounter greater cost-sharing in a private-sector plan, including higher co-payments for doctor visits and prescriptions, than you had under TRICARE. You may need to reassess your family's health-care needs. For example, ask yourself whether you'd be comfortable in an HMO or with a high deductible plan that gives you some tax advantages.
 
SOURCES: TRICARE Fact Sheets, TRICARE Management Activity, Falls Church, Va.; TAMP or CHCBP - if you separate from Active Duty status (Fall 2004), DCmilitary.com, Gaithersburg, Md.
eHealthInsurance is the nation's leading online source of health insurance. eHealthInsurance offers thousands of health plans underwritten by more than 180 of the nation's health insurance companies, including Aetna and Blue Cross Blue Shield. Compare plans side by side, get health insurance quotes, apply online and find affordable health insurance today.
Most usable health insurance exchange: ehealth