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Tricare Help: Do we need a Medicare Advantage Plan?

Jan. 12, 2012 - 11:26AM   |   Last Updated: Jan. 12, 2012 - 11:26AM  |  
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Q. My wife and I have Tricare for Life and Medicare Parts A and B. I keep seeing commercials for Medicare Advantage plans. Should we get one of those as a backup?

A. Don't be seduced by ads for Medicare Advantage plans. Those ads are written for civilians who don't have two full-service insurance plans, as you and your wife have under Tricare for Life. Most of the extras, if not all of them, are already yours through Tricare Standard, which comes free with TFL and acts as a Medicare supplement.

Q. I am a retired Marine. If I get married, is my new wife eligible for Tricare for Life if I enroll her in DEERS? What medical benefits will she get?

A. If you are entitled to receive retired pay, you are probably also entitled to Tricare. And if you are entitled to Tricare, your wife also will be entitled, as soon as you kiss the bride.

You will indeed have to register her with the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System and get her a military ID card before she can use Tricare, but that won't take long to do. If you need instructions or other help, call the DEERS support office at 800-538-9552. That office can answer all of your questions about Tricare eligibility and walk you through the registration process with your new wife.

You can enroll your wife in Tricare Standard, which is free, but she will have a $150 deductible every fiscal year and a co-payment of 25 percent of the amount Tricare allows on each of her claims up to a total of $3,000 for the two of you.

Then there is Tricare Prime, which is not available everywhere. But if you live in an area where you can get Prime, it's the least expensive in terms of out-of-pocket costs. Prime, however, has a yearly enrollment fee of $260 per person, or $520 for a family of two or more people. Prime is also great because it gives you priority access to free care in military hospitals.

Finally, you mentioned Tricare for Life. That's the best deal of all. If your new wife is entitled to Medicare and is enrolled in Part A and Part B, she is eligible for Tricare for Life.

If you go to the Tricare website, you can get official information about all Tricare plans and rules, including the free Tricare Pharmacy Program.

Don't enroll your wife in the Medicare Pharmacy Program, called Medicare Part D. She won't need it, and it will block her from using the Tricare Mail Order Pharmacy Plan, which is a big money-saver. If she is already enrolled in Part D, she can call Medicare and cancel it.

Write to Tricare Help, Times News Service, 6883 Commercial Drive, Springfield, VA 22159; or tricarehelp@militarytimes.com?subject=Tricare%20Help:%20Do%20we%20need%20a%20Medicare%20Advantage%20Plan?">click here to email us. In email, include the word "Tricare" in the subject line and do not attach files. http://www.militarytimes.com/tricarehelp">Get Tricare advice anytime on our blog.

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