• TRICARE changes underway, town hall set

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  • Tisha Swart-Entwistle | Staff Writer
    TRICARE beneficiaries across the board can expect to see significant changes to TRICARE beginning January 1.
    The reasons for the changes are twofold — a new law passed by Congress in December 2016 (the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017) and the beginning of the new regional TRICARE support contracts.
    Because the new contracts were already slated to begin January 2018, the Defense Health Agency timed the changes to the TRICARE structure to coincide with the changeover.
    To help beneficiaries understand and navigate the changes, Munson Army Health Center is hosting a town hall from noon to 1 p.m. Dec. 14 at the Post Theater. The health center is also offering a Facebook live feed from the MAHC Facebook page during the town hall for anyone who cannot attend in person.
    “We wanted to hold a post-wide town hall meeting to provide opportunities for our patients to ask questions and dialogue with the TRICARE subject matter expert about the changes that will take effect in January,” said Medical Department Activity and Munson Army Health Center Commander Col. David Cassella.
    Kathy Lucero, TRICARE beneficiary education representative, said she will be on hand during the meeting to field questions.
    MAHC patient advocate Tiffany Dipman said that beneficiaries should be looking at the changes now, because there are a few things that will need to be taken care of this month.
    New regional contractor
    One of the changes with the new contracts is the consolidation of the north and south regions into a single east region that will be managed by Humana Military. The new contractor for the west region, which includes Fort Leavenworth and the surrounding areas, is Health Net Federal Services, LLC.
    “Health Net has been a long-standing TRICARE-managed support contractor, and we have confidence in their ability to take care of our beneficiaries,” Cassella said.
    Updated payment information
    To prepare for the new contract, Dipman said the most important thing to do right away is to make sure updated payment information is sent to the new contractor. Automatic payment information did not automatically transfer to the new contractor and the deadline for sending the information is Dec. 20. Beneficiaries who are paying enrollment fees via an electronic fund transfer should have received a letter with instructions on giving HNFS credit card or bank information. Beneficiaries can also download the form from the website at www.tricare-west.com and then either fax it to (844) 785-2604 or mail it to PO Box 8608 Virginia Beach, VA 23450-8608.
    “It is important to do this to prevent a lapse in coverage,” Dipman said.
    Dipman also pointed out that beneficiaries who pay the enrollment fees via allotment from their pay or retiree pay, do not need to do anything; the fees will continue to be paid automatically.
    Page 2 of 3 - Costs
    Because of the changes to the TRICARE program caused by NDAA, beneficiaries can expect to see some of their out-of-pocket fees increase. According to the TRICARE.mil website, beneficiary out-of-pocket costs will be based on TRICARE plan type and military status, as well as the date the sponsor first became affiliated with the military. Beneficiaries will be separated into two groups: Group A includes sponsors who joined the military prior to Jan. 1, 2018, and Group B includes sponsors who join after that date. For example, under the current plan a military retiree enrolled in TRICARE Prime is paying $282.60 a year or $23.55 a month for an individual plan. The new plan will include a cost of living adjustment, so the same retiree can expect to pay $289.08 for the year or $24.09 monthly. According to TRICARE, the increase is based on the annual cost-of-living adjustment for retired military pay.
    Deductibles and catastrophic caps will also now be calculated on calendar year rather than fiscal year.
    A detailed cost structure changes comparison can be downloaded at https://tricare.mil/About/Changes/General-TRICARE-Changes/Costs. (The document is called TRICARE Changes Plans Comparison and is under “related downloads.”)
    TRICARE Select
    Another change to TRICARE involves the consolidation of two plans into one. Beneficiaries who are enrolled in TRICARE Standard or TRICARE Extra will now be automatically enrolled in TRICARE Select Jan. 1. Select is a self-managed, preferred-provider network plan.
    To compare the different TRICARE plans, visit https://tricare.mil/Plans/ComparePlans
    Changing enrollment
    Beneficiaries also need to know that making changes to their TRICARE enrollment will now only be allowed annually during open enrollment or because of a life-qualifying event, like the birth of a child or marriage. The first annual open enrollment period is in November 2018.
    For beneficiaries seeing providers outside of a military treatment facility, it is also important to make sure the provider is in the network to prevent having to pay extra fees.
    Lucero, said HNFS is currently out recruiting network providers for the changeover Jan. 1.
    “We encourage beneficiaries to check the website to see if your provider is a network provider,” Lucero said.
    If beneficiaries cannot locate their provider on the directory, they can nominate the providers to help get them added to the network, Lucero said.
    To search the provider directory visit www.tricare-west.com, under portals select “beneficiary” and then select “provider directory” under public tools. On that page select the “search network provider directory” bar. On this page beneficiaries can search for providers or select the link to “nominate a new provider.” Lucero said providers can also go to www.tricare-west.com and ask to be included.
    Page 3 of 3 - “Health Net is really working hard to get all current network providers established with the new contractor,” Dipman said.
    More information
    Dipman said that getting up-to-date information about any changes is going to be important going forward.
    “To get the most recent changes and information, beneficiaries can go to www.tricare.mil/about and enter an e-mail address,” Dipman said.
    Another good resource to review the changes is www.tricare.mil/changes, Dipman said.
    Beneficiaries are welcome to bring questions to the town hall Dec. 14.
    MAHC is also having an internal informational meeting Dec. 13 to help staff understand the changes so they can better serve beneficiaries.
    “We will continue to keep our patients informed on new changes through social media,” Cassella said.
    For more information call HNFS at (844) 866-9378 or visit www.tricare.mil/changes.
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