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TRICARE Changes Mean Lower Healthcare Costs for Reservists

By Sgt. 1st Class Kathleen T. Rhem, USA
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 19, 2001 – DoD officials have enacted healthcare system changes to make life a little easier for reserve component members and their families following the Noble Eagle/Enduring Freedom call-up to active duty.

The most significant change is a national demonstration project that waives all TRICARE deductibles for family members of Noble Eagle/Enduring Freedom activated reservists and guardsmen for care received since Sept. 14.

TRICARE officials realized many of these families probably paid deductibles for their civilian health plans earlier in the year. They didn't feel it fair for them to shoulder another financial burden just because their sponsor was called up toward the end of the year, said Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Robert Styron, regional operations officer for the TRICARE Management Activity.

Another change for reserve component members is that TRICARE will pay for up to 115 percent of what is usually allowed for care under existing guidelines. Styron said the change would help reservists who live far from active military facilities in areas that don't have TRICARE provider networks. Their families probably would end up paying more out-of-pocket if TRICARE hadn't agreed to the higher fees.

The third change is that TRICARE officials have waived the need for Guard and Reserve family members to obtain nonavailability statements before receiving care from a civilian provider. Styron said DoD acknowledges many reserve families have existing relationships with civilian providers.

"If you've already got these established relationships with a provider, we're not going to get in the way. We will allow you to continue seeing providers you know." he said.

Active duty family members don't need a nonavailability statement if they're far from a military treatment facility. If they live near a military facility, however, they generally need the statement or they must pay for the care themselves.

DoD officials have explained that families of reserve component members called up for at least 30 days are eligible to use TRICARE benefits. Families of those activated for at least 179 days are also eligible to enroll in TRICARE Prime, which offers the most cost-effective way for military families to receive medical care.

For more information on these new benefits and on healthcare for reservists and guardsmen, visit TRICARE for the reserve components at www.tricare.osd.mil/reserve/default.htm.

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