Military Health Insurance
Current uniformed service members receive no-cost health care benefits through TRICARE, the Department of Defense's health insurance program, and their family members are also covered at little or no cost. TRICARE also covers National Guard/Reserves members, military retirees, their families, and certain others, but most of those beneficiaries have out-of-pocket costs for care.
All recruits receive medical insurance coverage through TRICARE while in training. You cannot use any other insurance, and coverage/enrollment are automatic. Members of the Guard and Reserve are also covered during training periods.
Other separated personnel (i.e., non-retired veterans) may get care from the VA, but there are often costs involved. Many veterans rely primarily on private health insurance coverage, especially since VA does not typically provide care for dependents. This article summarizes the health insurance and care options available to:
Active-duty service members and their families
National Guard/Reserves and their families
Retired personnel and their families
Separated service members (non-retired veterans)
Coverage for active duty service members and their dependents
TRICARE covers hospital stays, doctor visits, tests, and prescriptions. There is no cost to active duty beneficiaries (called sponsors) and little or no cost to their dependents (family members who are registered in DEERS). However, each type of beneficiary has different benefits available to them.
Active duty military personnel must enroll – at no cost – in one of four TRICARE Prime options, depending on their geographic location. Prime plans provide managed care: enrollees are assigned a Primary Care Manager and have to go through their PCM for all medical needs or get a referral when a specialist is needed. Most Prime enrollees must use an MTF (Military Treatment Facility) to receive treatment unless the MTF lacks capacity. There are no out-of-pocket charges to active duty members for medical services.
Active duty family members can choose to participate in Prime with their sponsor. Under this plan, you'll pay nothing unless you use the point-of-service option, which offers a greater choice of providers. But there are other TRICARE options as well: in the US, you can choose TRICARE Select. This plan doesn't restrict beneficiaries to military medical facilities and offers a much greater choice of doctors. TRICARE Select is similar in structure to civilian PPO health care plan; fees and costs vary based on the sponsor's military status but may include:
Annual outpatient deductibles: an amount paid out-of-pocket before the plan pays for services
Cost shares: plan members pay a percentage of the provider's regular fee for covered services
In some parts of the country, active duty dependents can also enroll in the TRICARE US Family Health Plan. This option lets them receive enhanced healthcare coverage at regional not-for-profit civilian healthcare systems instead of a military medical facility.
For a more comprehensive guide to the TRICARE medical program, see TRICARE Health Insurance Benefits Explained.