In 2018, January 1 will herald not only a new calendar year, but new changes in TRICARE benefits as well. While new information continues to roll out as the Pentagon plans and releases more details, we’ll focus on two important changing aspects of your TRICARE benefits: Payments and enrollments.
In the past, TRICARE has been on a fiscal year (October 1 to September 30) rather than a calendar year. Conversely, civilian health care plans are largely on calendar year schedules, rather than fiscal years. Beginning in 2018, TRICARE will use a calendar year. This will be especially important to beneficiaries with plans that currently issue bills on a fiscal year schedule.
A transition period from now until December 31 will work to ensure that beneficiaries who pay enrollment fees aren’t over (or under) charged. During this time, enrollment fees will be prorated for those who pay monthly or quarterly. According to TRICARE, “If you pay enrollment fees on an annual basis, you’ll be billed for the fees to cover the three-month period and sent a billing notice for the annual fee for calendar year 2018.”
After January 1, paper is out. TRICARE will no longer accept payments by paper checks. You’ll still be able to use allotment, electronic transfers, debit cards, credit cards, and online payment (if your regional contractor accepts this method).
The general rule of thumb for the TRICARE change is to ensure that your regional contractor has your current information by updating it with them. Failure to do so may cause your payments to go to your old regional contractor or, if not received by your new regional contractor, trigger disenrollment. If you pay by allotment through Uniformed Services Pay Centers or a Defense Financing and Accounting Service, you do not need to update information as it will transfer to your regional contractor on the first of the year.
By J.G. Noll