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Retirees Flock to TRICARE Dental Plan

By Douglas J. Gillert
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 21, 1998 – Officials expected about 400,000 military retirees and family members to sign up over five years for the new TRICARE Retiree Dental Program. Their estimate quickly climbed after 100,000 enrolled in February, the plan's first month of operation.

"More than 325,000 are now enrolled in the plan, and the number is growing every day," said Dr. Tom McDavid, a marketing executive at Delta Dental of California, which manages the program. He said the enrollment would probably be even higher, except some retirees not eligible for TRICARE medical benefits don't realize they can enroll in the dental plan.

The plan is in fact open to anyone eligible for retired military pay. "Even military retirees over 65 are eligible to enroll, as are members of the Retired Reserve under age 60 who are entitled to retired pay," he said. Other eligible persons include:

  • Spouses of retired members who are enrolled in the program;
  • Children of enrolled retirees who are either under 21, under 23 and a full-time student or became disabled before age 21 (23 if a full-time student); and
  • Unremarried surviving spouses or eligible children of deceased members who died on retired status or while on active duty for a period of more than 30 days and whose family members aren't eligible for dental benefits under the family member dental plan.

Low premiums and a broad menu of services make the program popular, said McDavid, a retired Navy dentist. The plan covers all or part of the cost of diagnostic, preventive, restorative, endodontic and periodontic services; oral surgery, emergency care, drugs and postsurgical care.

Premiums are regionally determined and range from $9.41-$15.08 per month for single enrollees; $18.32-$29.25 per month for two people; and $30.53-$48.02 for families. Exact premiums are available by calling (888) 838-8737 toll-free, or by entering a ZIP code on Delta's dedicated retiree dental plan Web site at www.ddpdelta.org.

The plan levies an annual $50 deductible per person covered. Delta then pays up to $1,000 of allowable charges per enrollee per year. Most diagnostic and preventive procedures aren't subject to the annual deductible and maximum, McDavid said.

Enrollees can seek dental care from any dentists licensed in the state where they practice. DeltaSelect USA also maintains a network of dentists. Using a network dentist may lower out-of- pocket costs, McDavid said. In addition, network dentists file patient claims and are paid directly by Delta.

DeltaSelect USA dentists accept a pre-negotiated fee for services covered by the program, and enrollees are responsible only for applicable cost shares and deductibles, McDavid said. Enrollees who receive care outside the network must pay the difference if their dentists charge more than the allowance.

To enroll or for more information, visit the plan Web site or call the toll-free phone number.

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