It’s that time of year again: OPEN SEASON. This year’s Tricare Open Season runs from Monday, 11 November 2019 (that’s Monday!) through Monday, 9 December 2019. Be sure to select what Tricare plan you want to use for 2020 during the open season, or you’re stuck with what you had in 2019 unless you have a Qualifying Life Event that lets you change. This open season applies to Tricare plans (Prime vs. Select) and FEDVIP vision and dental coverage. Open season DOES not apply to Tricare Dental for Active Duty families.
What Is An Open Season?
Open season, also called open enrollment or annual enrollment, is a designated time of year where employees can select from their different benefit options. For military families, that means picking your Tricare plan for the next year, and deciding whether you want to enroll in FEDVIP vision insurance for the next year. For retirees, it is also the time where you pick your dental coverage for the next year if you are using the FEDVIP program
But I Used To Switch Tricare Whenever I Wanted!
Yup, that’s true. You used to be able to switch Tricare throughout the year. Starting in 2019, that’s no longer true. Switching Tricare plans has to happen during the open season or after a Qualifying Life Event.
What About USFHPs?
Uniformed Services Family Health Plans are special. They seem like they are a third Tricare choice, but they’re really a Primary Care Manager under Tricare Prime. What this means for you is that you can switch from Prime to USFHP to Prime whenever you want, because you’re not switching plans, you’re just doing a PCM change. Crazy, right? But true.
You may want to consider adding a Tricare Supplement to your overall coverage. You can learn more at this article: Tricare Supplements: Do You Want One? Where Would You Get It?
How Do I Pick Which Tricare I Want?
First, get to know the plans. (This article is about the options in the DC area, but they are the same for everyone except that some areas are not covered by USFHPs.) You can also learn a lot about the plans by printing and reviewing the Tricare Costs and Fees sheet. And the Tricare.mil website is a wealth of knowledge if you take some time nosing around.
Then, consider your family’s situation. Question to ask:
Is there an MTF convenient to you, and are they accepting patients?
Do you see a lot of specialists? Where do you have to go to see those specialists?
Do you want to be able to fill prescriptions on base?
Do you typically hit your catastrophic cap or not?
Are you more interested in convenience or cost?
Our family has been on USFHP, Tricare Prime, and Tricare Select. They all have pros and cons. For us, Tricare Select has provided the simplest coverage – no PCM appointments to get referrals to my daughter’s many specialists. And since we hit our catastrophic cap every year, the co-pays don’t really matter. It’s just a matter of whether we pay more at the beginning of the year or if we stretch those expenses over the full year. Plus, we generally get to pick specialists who are either really, really good at what they do OR very convenient to our house.
If you have less complex medical needs, Tricare Prime or USFHP may be a good option for you. You may save money, either a little bit or more, depending on your details.
What Do I Need To Do?
There are three possible actions here:
Do Nothing: If you are happy with your current Tricare plan, you do not have to do anything. You will remain enrolled in that plan.
Change Plans: If you are currently enrolled in Tricare, and want to switch plans, you need to do it no later than 9 December 2019. I recommend going ahead and doing it as soon as you make your decision, because you know how life can get in the way of remembering things. Or internet goes out. Or people get sick. We’ve all been there.
Select A Plan: If you are not currently enrolled in a Tricare plan, this is the time to enroll. Again, do it no later than 9 December 2019, but earlier is better!
How To Do It: To the best of my knowledge, there are two readily available ways to enroll or change your Tricare enrollment: by telephone or online. There is a mail option, but that would make me nervous, and there may be a Tricare office available to you, but they have become very rare.
By telephone, call your Tricare contractor. You can see how the regions are divided and find the most up-to-date phone number at this webpage.
Online, you have to have a DS Login or CAC card and log into the Beneficiary Web Enrollment Website at MilConnect. Once you are logged in, you should see a screen that looks like this:
Click on the button that says Manage Health Benefits. This will take you to a page where you can click on each beneficiary. In theory, you should be able to change your plan there, but the page is not working on the first day of open season (11 November 2019.) I’ve told Tricare and they are escalating it but do not anticipate that it will be fixed today.
Don’t Forget Vision and Dental
It is also open season for vision coverage and retiree dental coverage through the FEDVIP program. Active duty family members covered under the Tricare Dental Plan do not have an open season and do not need to take any action.
See why I choose a vision plan outside of FEDVIP – cheaper, better coverage, and no open seasons!
All Tricare coverage is outstanding, especially for the price. The important thing is that you make a thoughtful, educated decision so that you don’t feel like you are stuck in a plan that isn’t what you wanted.
Do you want to know more about your military pay and benefits?
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