College Students and TRICARE

Children in military families remain eligible for TRICARE benefits until they reach age 21 or, enrolled in college, until they reach age 23 or graduate from college, whichever comes first. Before sending a son or daughter off to college, it is important for military families to review their child's health care options because some TRICARE options will work better than others. Military families should call their regional TRICARE contractor to find out if their child's college is in an area where TRICARE Prime is located or if a local military hospital or clinic is accepting new Prime enrollees. If it is, a split enrollment under TRICARE Prime may be the best option—the student would be disenrolled from Prime at his or her home location and re-enrolled at the new one. They may transfer their enrollment back home for summer break.

Families should think about their student's transportation options at college and the location of local providers. A student enrolled in TRICARE Prime, whether at a military facility or in the civilian network, must make all appointments with their primary care manager to avoid point of service fees, which could result in higher out-of-pocket costs. It is unwise to allow the student to stay enrolled at the home location or to choose Prime, if it will be difficult for the student to get to the provider's location.

If it is not convenient for a college student to get to an assigned primary care manager or military hospital or clinic, military families may want to consider disenrolling their child from TRICARE Prime at their home location and having the student use TRICARE Standard or Extra. Again, this action would create a split enrollment: some family members in Prime and the college student in Standard. Using TRICARE Standard or Extra will give the student flexibility to receive care from any TRICARE authorized provider; however, the costs are higher than in TRICARE Prime. When using a TRICARE network provider under TRICARE Extra, the student will have a lower cost share than using a non-network provider. Also, network doctors will file the claim for the patient. Some doctors who accept TRICARE Standard may require payment up front. Students will need to save the receipts and, if age 18 or older, sign the claim forms.

Students may also be subject to a one-year lock-out if disenrolling from Prime and will not be able to re-enroll in Prime at their home location when returning for the summer. Families should check with their TRICARE contractor for more details before disenrolling the student from Prime.

Another avenue military families may opt to use is the student health plan offered by many colleges and universities. These plans are considered other health insurance, so TRICARE acts as the secondary payer to any student health plan. If a family decides to use the student health plan, TRICARE Standard or Extra is the best TRICARE option. It is important for families to weigh all their options carefully.

Your child may be eligible for TRICARE Young Adult after your child ages out of traditional TRICARE coverage.

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