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COVID-19 Affecting Military Ability to Pay for Healthcare?

covid and military healthcare bills

With COVID-19 affecting the globe, many find themselves in a desperate financial situation. For those currently in the Reserves or National Guard, or retired from either, it’s possible that you may have lost some of your income, especially if you are not currently on active duty and have a civilian job. You may even be going down the list of your monthly costs, trying to see what can be reduced or deferred. If you have a Tricare plan with monthly payments, such as Tricare Reserve Select or Tricare Retired Reserve, this may be one of your higher monthly bills.

For those enrolled in Tricare Reserve Select, which is typically non-active duty National Guard and Reservists, the monthly premium is $44.17 for an individual and $228.27 for a family. For those enrolled in Tricare Retired Reserve, usually retired National Guard and Reservists under 60 years old, the cost is significantly higher at $444.37 per month for an individual, and $1,066.26 per month for a family. You can see a summary of your plan’s costs and co-payments with the TRICARE Compare Cost Tool. At the time of this article, monthly premiums are not able to be deferred due to COVID-19 related financial trouble. In contrast, if you happen to have USAA as your health insurance provider, they are adding a 90-day extension to their payment grace period, which is normally 30 days (see information here).

Copayments for Tricare Reserve Select range from $15 for outpatient primary services to $62 for inpatient hospitalization. For Tricare Retired Reserve, higher copayments range from $26 for outpatient primary services to $182 for inpatient hospitalization. Although copayments are waived for any COVID-19 related testing and office visits on or after March 18th, beneficiaries may need to pay related copayments up front and subsequently receive a refund from Tricare. All copayments unrelated to COVID-19 must still be paid in full, as well as any pharmacy costs.

Paying monthly premiums, and possibly copayments, may have recently become more difficult for some Tricare beneficiaries. For those who are currently National Guard or Reservists, instead of struggling quietly with these financial burdens, let your unit know if you are unable to make your monthly premium payments or copayments. In turn, your chain of command should emphasize the importance of protecting the health and wellness of their soldiers and families. Those in the National Guard and Reserves do not have the same quick and easy access to resources that those on active duty do, so now is the time to check in with your junior enlisted. For those who are retired Guard or Reserves, your options may be more limited, but you can notify your congressmen of your struggles to bring more attention to the problem.

There are a few solutions that could be implemented to help with these soldiers’ healthcare costs. Similar to what many banks, lenders, and utility companies have done (see list of potential deferment options), it would be reasonable to allow deferment of Tricare payments, and subsequently implement a payment plan to have beneficiaries pay back the missed payments over time. This would help alleviate financial pressure while quarantine regulations are still in effect and many businesses’ doors are closed. Another solution is to allow those who have Tricare Reserve Select or Retired Reserve to be placed on Tricare Prime, which is normally only for those on active duty. Under Tricare Prime beneficiaries must see a military healthcare provider, in contrast to Tricare Reserve Select that allows beneficiaries to choose their provider. Although not everyone lives near a military facility, this would at least give those who do an option to maintain their healthcare coverage while not paying a monthly premium.

With mounting financial concerns, especially in the civilian world, it may be easy to overlook our military personnel who primarily rely on a civilian income, as opposed to an active duty income. If attention is brought to the situation, solutions can be developed to mitigate a section of our current and former military from losing their healthcare.