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Tricare Help: Did Medicare give me bad info about enrollment?

Aug. 12, 2009 - 11:27AM   |   Last Updated: Aug. 12, 2009 - 11:27AM  |  
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The law governing Tricare also has a rule about Part B enrollment. It requires retirees who get Medicare to be enrolled in Part B at the moment their Medicare coverage is effective. If they do not have Part B at that moment, they lose their Tricare eligibility. It cannot be restored until their Part B coverage is effective.

Contact Social Security immediately to explain your situation. Ask to be enrolled in Part B right away. Explain that until your Part B enrollment is effective, you have no health insurance except Medicare Part A and your former employer's health plan, if you retained it when you retired. "No" is not an acceptable answer on their end; go up the chain of command as necessary.

All military retirees who have health insurance through their current employer should know that Tricare law requires Part B enrollment to be in effect at the moment their Medicare Part A coverage becomes effective one second past midnight on the first day of the month of their 65th birthday. If their Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System record does not report Part B enrollment on that date, Tricare eligibility is terminated immediately.

Because Part B is a Medicare program, contacting Medicare for information seems reasonable. Regrettably, Medicare employees generally have no reason to advise people to contact Tricare.

The requirement of Part B enrollment for Tricare for Life eligibility is widely publicized. My experience during the past 30 years, unfortunately, is that a very large number of uniformed service members and retirees have very limited knowledge of their health care benefits. Even worse, most make little effort to learn about them. Reservists seem to know even less than those who have served on active duty.

All should use">the Tricare Web site.

Q. I will get Medicare and Tricare for Life in December. I have a health insurance policy from my last employer, and I need to know whether to file first with that policy or with Medicare.

A. If you have other health insurance through your employer, you must file with that plan first for as long as you continue to work for the employer that provides the policy. When you no longer work for that employer, you file first with Medicare and second with the other plan.

By law, all beneficiaries must file with Tricare last in all cases.

Write to Tricare Help, Times News Service, 6883 Commercial Drive, Springfield, VA 22159; or"> In e-mail, include the word "Tricare" in the subject line.

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