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New Dental Plan Expands Services, Includes Reservists

By Staff Sgt. Kathleen T. Rhem,
USA American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 13, 2000 -- DoD's new TRICARE Dental Program will feature lower premiums, expanded services and cost ceilings, and will allow reservists and their families to enroll.

DoD awarded a $1.8 billion, five-year contract in April to United Concordia Companies Inc. of Camp Hill, Pa., the current TRICARE Family Member Dental Plan administrator. Changes take effect Feb. 1, 2001. “One of the most significant changes is that reserve component members and their families will be eligible to enroll,” said Navy Capt. Lawrence D. McKinley, the TRICARE Management Activity's senior consultant for dentistry.

During the first two years of the contract, premiums for active duty family members will drop from the current levels. The $8.53 single and $21.33 family rates will drop to $7.63 and $19.08 respectively during the first year, and remain below current levels even during the second year. Premiums for reservists on extended active duty and their families will mirror those of active duty members, however premiums for families of reservists not on active duty will be somewhat higher. After the first two years, premiums may rise, but "will remain very reasonable," McKinley said.

Other improvements include:

o The enrollment "lock-in" period falls from 24 months to 12. That is, active duty members must have 12 months left on their current term of service to enroll. Reservists must "express intent" to remain in the reserves for at least 12 consecutive months.

o United Concordia will take over enrollment responsibilities from the services' personnel offices. McKinley said this should improve customer service by allowing beneficiaries to deal directly with the contractor. Current enrollees will automatically transfer to the new system.

o The annual maximum for general dentistry increases from $1,000 to $1,200, and the lifetime maximum for orthodontic care goes from $1,200 to $1,500.

o General anesthesia and intravenous sedation will be covered.

o Coverage of diagnostic and preventive services expands.

Most of the changes stem from customer feedback. "We've been listening to the beneficiaries. We've incorporated as many of their suggestions as possible," McKinley said. "We also listened to concerns from line commanders about dental readiness and the quality of life of their people."

He also said DoD officials constantly monitor civilian insurance programs. The new TRICARE plan, he said, "easily matches most insurance programs of Fortune 500 companies and is better than many."

McKinley stressed the program will evolve over the five years of the contract. TMA officials monitor civilian plans to pick up on trends and to look at things worth adopting. “Each option year, we will review what we have, and we will improve as we go along if costs will not be increased," he added.

DoD and United Concordia plan to conduct customer-satisfaction surveys monthly. For more information, beneficiaries can call United Concordia's toll-free customer-service line, 1-800-866- 8499 or visit the company's Web site at www.ucci.com.

Information Courtesy of American Forces Information Service

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