DoD Announces New Health Care Benefit for Guard and Reserve
By Terri Lukach
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, March 24, 2005 A new health care plan, with coverage comparable to that enjoyed by federal employees under the Blue Cross and Blue Shield health insurance plan, will be available to eligible members of the National Guard and Reserve and their families April 25, Defense Department officials announced today at the Pentagon.
The new plan, called Tricare Reserve Select, will serve as a bridge for reserve component members entering or leaving active duty who are not covered by civilian employer or other health insurance plans. It applies to all reserve component personnel who have been activated since Sept. 11, 2001, and who agree to continued service in the Selected Reserve. The coverage will be applied retroactively, officials said.
Principal Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Charles Abell, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs Thomas Hall, and Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs Dr. William Winkenwerder announced the plan at a Pentagon news conference.
"We are committed," Abell said, "to providing the proper combination of compensation and benefits that will allow us to attract and retain the world's best fighting force."
Abell said that while large numbers of National Guard and Reserve members have health insurance through their employers, the department "recognizes the importance of maintaining a continuity of care as they transition from their employers to serve with us and then back, as well as the need for some of them who may be self-employed or who work for small businesses to have health coverage."
TRS is a nationwide, premium-based plan that closely resembles the Tricare Standard coverage of the active duty force. Its rates are based on the premiums for the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Standard Service Benefit Plan for federal government employees. Premiums will be adjusted annually.
Reserve component personnel and their family members now are also eligible for benefits 90 days prior to activation, and for up to six months after demobilization, Hall said.
"For every 90 days of active duty service, Guard and Reserve personnel are eligible for one year of Tricare coverage for a modest fee," Hall told reporters. "That means, for example, that personnel who have served two years of active duty are eligible for eight years of healthcare coverage."
Winkenwerder praised the members of the National Guard and Reserve. "They have shouldered a tremendous share of the global war on terror in which we are deeply engaged," he said, "and they have performed exceptionally well.
"They mobilized and deployed side by side with active duty forces, many serving in Iraq and Afghanistan," Winkenwerder continued. "They served with pride and loyalty. And while we have, in the past, offered full healthcare benefits for these servicemembers, and for their families, this change will shortly offer a more comprehensive benefit for transition back to private life, and, importantly, the opportunity for those who have served in contingency operations, the option for obtaining Tricare coverage on a longer term at very attractive rates.