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TRICARE-Medicare Eligible Face March 31 Enrollment Deadline

By Douglas J. Gillert
Special to American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 18, 1998 – Some DoD health care beneficiaries could lose access to TRICARE if they aren't enrolled in Medicare Part B by March 31. 

Under TRICARE, military beneficiaries who, because of disability or kidney disease become eligible for Medicare before their 65th birthday, can join both Medicare and TRICARE if they purchase Medicare Part B supplemental insurance. However, they must select Part B coverage when they sign up initially or during the annual open enrollment period, Jan. 1 – March 31.

Medicare benefits include Part A, premium-free hospital insurance, and Part B, supplemental medical insurance that covers visits to doctors, outpatient care and certain medical equipment. When you initially sign up for Medicare, the Social Security Administration gives you the option of declining Part B coverage.

The open enrollment season provides a "second chance" to purchase Part B insurance, with coverage becoming effective July 1 of the year you sign up. However, the Social Security Administration adds a 10 percent surcharge on monthly premiums for each year since your initial eligibility. 

The surcharge may be waived if you can show evidence of DoD error, misrepresentation or inaction in the handling of your initial application. This process is called "equitable relief." The Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System support office will research your request for relief and make recommendations to the Social Security Administration in cases where evidence of an error exists.

Equitable relief requests to DEERS support offices should identify the alleged error, identify the DoD employee who made the error, and provide any other information explaining why Medicare Part B coverage was declined. 

The DEERS support office can't support your claim for equitable relief where a non-DoD agency made the alleged error.

Not all disability benefits are administered by the Social Security Administration. If you are a veteran or the family member of a veteran, you may be eligible for medical benefits or compensation from the Department of Veterans Affairs. 

Use this information to contact these agencies for assistance:

For questions regarding Medicare, contact the nearest Social Security Administration office. For an address and telephone number, look in the blue pages of your phone book under "U.S. Government." You also can get Medicare information on the Internet at www.hcfa.gov/medicare/intro.htm

For information or problems regarding DoD health benefits or your DEERS record, call the DEERS support office between 6 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. Pacific time, Monday through Friday, except on federal holidays.

Use one of these toll-free numbers: 

  • From California, call (800) 334-4162;
  • From Alaska and Hawaii, call (800) 527-5602; and
  • From any other state, call (800) 538-9552. 

For Veterans Affairs information and help, call the nearest regional office or visit the VA Internet site at www.va.gov/benefits.htm.

If you enroll or re-enroll in Part B coverage, mail a copy of your new SSA Notice of Award showing your Part A and Part B effective dates to:

DEERS Support Office (ATTN: CA)

DoD Center-Monterey Bay

400 Gigling Road

Seaside, CA 93955-6771

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