Enrolling in Military Health Insurance

Military health insurance, which is more commonly called TRICARE, is available to service members, their spouses and their children.

It provides almost all healthcare services needed by families and even includes dental and vision insurance. In some cases, TRICARE works alongside other health insurance options. There is a variety of plans within TRICARE that accommodate applicants who fall under certain eligibility categories.

Having multiple plans helps military personnel and their families determine and receive the coverage that works best for them. Military health insurance is offered nationwide.

The TRICARE enrollment process requires you to submit an application in order to determine your eligibility. However, you may predict your chances of qualifying by learning about the different coverage plans available and which type of plan suits your current situation.

There are several ways to apply for TRICARE, including over the phone, by mail or online. Applying online may save you time and help you avoid extensive paperwork. However, you may prefer applying by phone if you want to ask a live person questions about the application or the program.

Available TRICARE Plans

Before applying for TRICARE, you must look at the different plans available and determine which one makes the most sense for you. These programs include:

  • TRICARE Prime.
  • TRICARE Prime Remote.
  • TRICARE Prime Overseas.
  • TRICARE Prime Remote Overseas.
  • TRICARE Select.
  • TRICARE Reserve Select.
  • TRICARE Select Overseas.
  • U.S. Family Health Plan.
  • TRICARE Retired Reserve.
  • TRICARE Young Adult.
  • Continued Health Care Benefit Plan.

TRICARE Prime covers active duty service members and their families, certain retired service members and their families, activated guard or reserve members and more.

Prime service areas are locations in the U.S. where TRICARE Prime is available. If an applicant lives 50 miles away from the nearest military hospital, he or she may consider applying for TRICARE Prime Remote. TRICARE Prime Overseas or Remote Overseas may apply to an applicant who is serving in an overseas location.

TRICARE select is a network plan that allows you to select your preferred providers. This program replaced the Standard and Extra program in 2018. Additionally, this plan and TRICARE Prime cover similar groups of people. Thus, you may have dual eligibility. TRICARE Reserve Select, on the other hand, is not limited to the United States and has different eligibility requirements.

You may qualify for this program if you are not on active duty, do not receive coverage from the Transitional Assistance Management Program and are not eligible for the Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) program.

TRICARE Select Overseas is similar to Reserve Select, because it may provide you with total coverage regardless of where you are placed overseas. However, this program is not as limited in terms of eligibility. Ultimately, each program is tailored to a different group of applicants.

In many cases, TRICARE works with government health insurance, so qualified beneficiaries are encouraged to learn how to apply for Medicaid.

Ways to Enroll in TRICARE

Depending on the program you choose, the application process may vary. However, most plans follow a general procedure, which makes it easier for you to prepare for the process. 

First, you must select a primary network provider and determine whether you are applying in the East or West region. For a list of approved providers, visit the TRICARE site.

Then, fill out the application form. Make sure that your information is up-to-date, as accurate as possible and covers every family member who will participate in the program.

You may complete the application online, by telephone or by mail. To apply online, you must live in a Prime service area. If this applies to you, you may log into the beneficiary web enrollment site by using your common access card (CAC), MyPay account or another informational service.

To apply over the phone, call the toll-free number that corresponds to the East or West region.

If you are applying by mail, send in your application and supporting documents to TRICARE in the same package. Be sure to submit the correct application form for your program and for the West or East region.

If your application is accepted, you may activate your plan. This is usually done online by creating an account on the TRICARE site, if you have not already done so.

Exceptions to the TRICARE Enrollment Process

Note that certain aspects of this procedure may differ depending on your plan. If you apply for the TRICARE Reserve Select plan, for example, you must first prove that you are eligible by completing a questionnaire in the online portal.

Once you complete this step, you may submit the rest of your application by mail or fax, along with your first payment. You may also need to be enrolled in the Defense Enrolment Eligibility System (DEERS).

Enrolling in DEERS

The TRICARE for Life program and most other TRICARE programs require you to first enroll in DEERS. Sponsors are automatically registered with DEERS, but you may need to add each of your family members if you want them to be on your healthcare plan.

To add your family members, visit a local ID card office. Walk-ins are welcome but you may also set up an appointment by calling in advance or requesting one online. Then, you must update your contact information on the MilConnect website, by calling TRICARE, faxing your updates or mailing your information to the Defense Manpower Data Center Support Office in California.

If you are mailing or faxing your information, your return address must not include a P.O. box.

If you are adding a spouse to DEERS, you must submit a valid marriage certificate, as well as your husband or wife’s birth certificate, Social Security card and state-issued driver’s license or ID. You may only submit originals or certified copies of these documents.

If you are adding children to DEERS, you must submit each child’s birth certificate and Social Security card. You may also need to submit a marriage certificate for step-children.

There are several circumstances in which you will need to add a child. For instance, you may need to add children who are 21 years of age or older and are full-time students, children born out of wedlock, dependent parents, dependent wards, other qualifying young adults and family members who are now 65 years of age.

If you are a family member who needs to apply for DEER without a sponsor, you may do so by submitting form DD-1172 along with your supporting documents. Be sure to send in your application within 90 days and include the signature of your sponsor or use a power of attorney.