TRICARE health insurance is one of the military’s best benefits for active-duty servicemembers and their families. Depending on the duty location and the specific plan, a family’s out-of-pocket expenses are among the world’s lowest costs for healthcare systems.
What about the Reserves and National Guard? Well, not so fast.
For decades, Reserve/NG members only rated military healthcare when they were “on duty”. This meant that medical care could be obtained during drill weekends (for a limited number of issues or questions), or during the annual two weeks of active duty, or when mobilized.
Except for mobilizations, families weren’t covered at all. The services conducted physicals and other reviews of mobilization readiness, but routine care was considered to be the servicemember’s responsibility. Reserve/NG members and families were depending on the American healthcare system provided by civilian employers or by self-employed programs.
During the mobilizations after 9/11, however, nearly 20% of drilling Reservists had no health insurance at all. This is catastrophic enough if a serious disease or condition occurs, but it also meant that some mobilized Reserves and National Guard members had not obtained care for conditions which were later found to make them medically unfit to deploy. Since Reserve/NG units were supporting nearly 40% of the war effort, medical issues were a serious drag on readiness. If servicemembers couldn’t find affordable healthcare for their families then it would also become a retention issue.
The first solution to these readiness and benefits issues was Tricare Reserve Select, which was authorized in 2005. The program has gone through a number of changes during the last five years and has expanded its coverage.
Tricare Reserve Select
Tricare Reserve Select is available for Selected Reserve members of the Ready Reserve and their families. In addition to being “drilling Reservists”, they cannot already be enrolled in the Federal Employees Health Benefits plan. Enrollment is completed online or through the unit.
Premiums, deductibles, and cost shares are reviewed annually. Most of the program is subsidized so members pay only about 28% of the actual costs. The current premium for TRS is under $50/month for Reserve/NG and under $200/month for member & family coverage.
There are additional deductibles and cost shares for treatment, so the premiums do not cover all healthcare costs. However, this program can literally be a lifesaver for those who are without health insurance, and it may be competitive with employer insurance and self-employed insurance programs. When Reserve/NG members mobilize, they (and their families) are eligible for active-duty Tricare programs with no interruption in coverage or service.
This Tricare pamphlet summarizes program features and costs. Tricare’s FAQ page also has more details about Reserve/NG healthcare and TRS. Other questions about TRS can be answered through individual service’s points of contact at this link.
Tricare Retired Reserve
TRR coverage began in October. It’s only available to Reserves/NG below age 60 who have elected to retire, not resign, so it’s one more incentive for Reservists to retire awaiting pay while remaining subject to the remote chance of a mobilization. Like TRS, coverage is not available to Reservists who are already enrolled in the FEHB.
Not only is TRR available to retired Reserve/NG members and their families, it’s also offered to their survivors. Like SBP, this is an important benefit intended to bridge the gap between the time a member becomes eligible for retirement (perhaps as young as their 30s) until they start drawing retired pay at age 60.
Unlike TRS or gray-area SBP, however, the program is not subsidized by the military. Members pay the full premium costs as well as annual deductibles and cost shares for treatment. Premiums are reviewed annually, so next month they’ll rise to $408/month for members and $1020/month for member & family. However, once again this program is literally a lifesaver for families without any other health insurance, or for those with pre-existing conditions which may make civilian insurance unaffordable.
This Tricare pamphlet summarizes TRR program features and costs. Tricare’s FAQ page also has more details about TRR.
These articles cover additional healthcare topics:
- Health care options after leaving the military
- Health care options for retired Guard and Reserve members
TRICARE Reserve Select and TRICARE Retired Reserve offer members of the Reserve component and their family members access to affordable, comprehensive health care.
Reserves and National Guard
Mobilizing with the Reserves and National Guard
Should You Join The Reserves or National Guard?
What You Need To Know About National Guard Retirement
Retiring From The Individual Ready Reserve Or National Guard
Is Tricare Standard good enough?
Don't Gut It Out To 20: Leave Active Duty For The Reserves Or National Guard
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