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TRICARE Prime Remote to Open for Family Members

By Staff Sgt. Kathleen T. Rhem, USA
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 15, 2000 – Families of active-duty service members serving in areas far from a military base and its medical facilities will be eligible soon for a new program designed to cut their healthcare costs.

The fiscal 2001 defense authorization act provides for TRICARE Prime Remote for Family Members to begin Oct. 1, 2001. Active duty members in locations more than 50 miles from a military medical treatment facility have had TRICARE Prime Remote since Oct. 1, 1999. Their families, however, are covered under TRICARE Standard.

TRICARE Prime Remote is similar to civilian health maintenance organizations and preferred provider plans. Beneficiaries use participating healthcare providers and pay relatively low co-payments and no deductibles. Under TRICARE Standard, users can choose any provider, but they pay deductibles and higher co-payments.

TRICARE Prime Remote for Family Members will affect the families of roughly 80,000 active duty service members, including recruiters, ROTC instructors and staff, and Training with Industry program participants. The new family member program will offer the same co-payment schedule as TRICARE Prime -- much lower than TRICARE Standard.

Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Robert Styron, regional operations officer for the TRICARE Management Activity here, said the new program responds to families' complaints about being ordered to remote areas where TRICARE Standard is their only military healthcare option. He acknowledged healthcare can be fairly costly using TRICARE Standard.

Families object because their medical care would be free if they were on a base or in a catchment area, Styron said.

TRICARE officials are still ironing out enrollment details, but expect to publicize steps prior to Oct. 1. Styron stressed individuals can make the process easier when the time comes by ensuring their information in the Defense Eligibility Enrollment Reporting System is current and accurate.

He said the legislation also includes a "waive charges" clause to provide some interim relief until TRICARE Prime Remote for Family Members debuts. Generally, TRICARE plans to waive most cost shares and deductibles incurred by eligible family members between Oct. 30, 2000, and Oct. 30, 2001.

Styron said the clause isn't in effect yet because officials are still working out program details. In the meantime, he advised family members in remote areas to keep all their receipts for co-payments, cost shares and deductibles.

"They may be able to be reimbursed when the details are worked out," he said.

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