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DoD Expands Dental Care for Families Overseas

By Douglas J. Gillert
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 9, 1999 – The TRICARE Family Member Dental Plan is going overseas.

Since May 1, military families living at remote locations overseas -- sites without military dental treatment facilities - - can get care from host-nation dentists through the TRICARE Family Member Dental Plan overseas extension.

That option will extend to all overseas locations Oct. 1.

"We're identifying host-nation providers and developing the infrastructure necessary to make this program successful in all locations around the world," said Navy Dr. (Capt.) Lawrence McKinley, senior consultant for dentistry at the TRICARE Management Activity, here. He said TRICARE intends to identify host-nation dentists who speak English and practice dentistry to U.S. quality standards.

Although TRICARE is expanding dental options for family members based overseas, McKinley said the change will not affect everyone. He said the plan is more important to families at remote locations who may not have been able to get adequate dental care. For families seeking dental care in remote locations, McKinley suggested they first contact their respective overseas TRICARE lead agent.

"At non-remote locations, care will continue to be available in overseas military dental treatment facilities, whether or not family members are enrolled in the TRICARE Family Member Dental Plan," he said. The overseas extension of the plan will augment existing dental services.

"Not all facilities can provide the entire scope of dental care that family members may be used to under [TRICARE] back in the states," he said. "They will now have the opportunity to be referred out to host-nation providers for those procedures."

McKinley said military dental facilities overseas can provide most routine dental care, including examinations, cleanings, restorations and oral health counseling. The kinds of care that may be referred to a host-nation dentist include more extensive procedures, such as crowns, bridges and dentures.

Family members already enrolled in the TRICARE Family Member Dental Plan won't have to re-enroll to participate in the plan overseas. Nor will their costs be increased. Those not already in the plan will be able to enroll in the United States or while overseas. Monthly premiums won't change from the current rates of $8.53 for single enrollment and $21.33 for families, but co- pays for some care received off-post overseas will be waived, and TRICARE will cover the difference between allowed fees and fees charged by the host-nation dentists.

Although DoD is expanding dental services overseas, McKinley said family members shouldn't defer care they know they need until they arrive at overseas locations. He also suggested that families enrolled in the plan stateside remain enrolled until after they arrive at their overseas assignment and have gauged the types of dental services available. If they find they can get all their dental care from a military facility, they can then choose to disenroll, he said.

To ensure uninterrupted dental care, however, McKinley also suggested family members departing overseas locations for the states enroll or re-enroll in the plan at least 60 days before their scheduled move. To enroll, they must have at least 12 months of active duty time remaining.

"Once the enrollment procedure has begun, it can take 45-60 days before the enrollment is verified at United Concordia [the dental plan administrator]," McKinley said.

Eligibility for the plan is based on the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System, which normally requires that the military sponsor have at least a 24-month active-duty commitment. That's been reduced to 12 months for overseas returnees, McKinley said.

"All of us involved in the program are very excited," McKinley said. "This is breaking new ground for dentistry -- worldwide coverage through an insurance-like product. We are working very hard to make this a success, not only for our family members but for the entire dental and medical community."

To enroll in the TRICARE Family Member Dental Plan, sponsors should visit the nearest military personnel office. For more information, visit the health benefits adviser at the nearest military medical facility or the nearest military dental treatment facility.

United Concordia published information about the plan in a new benefits handbook sent to exiting enrollees in May and June. The contractor also offers information about the plan on its Web site (www.ucci.com) and by e-mail (fmdpoconus@uccicom).

For information by telephone outside the United States, call (717) 975-5017 (toll call) between 3 a.m. and 8 p.m. EST Monday- Friday. Stateside callers can call toll free (800) 866-8499 or (800) 891-1854 (TDD) 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. EST Monday-Friday

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