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Medicare-eligible uniformed services retirees, their spouses and survivors who are age 65 and over will be entitled to expanded health care benefits under legislation signed by President Clinton on Oct. 30.

According to Pentagon data, this population represents approximately 1.4 million people. The new benefits include coverage under TRICARE, the military's health care program, and pharmacy coverage.

April 1, 2001, is the start date for eligible beneficiaries to receive pharmacy benefit to include access to military treatment facility pharmacies, the National Mail Order Pharmacy program and retail pharmacies. Beneficiaries who currently are age 65 or older or who will be 65 before April 1, 2001, will be eligible to use the pharmacy benefit without being enrolled in Medicare Part B. Those who turn 65 on or after April 1, 2001, will need to be enrolled in Medicare Part B in order to use the pharmacy benefit.

Effective October 1, 2001, under the new law, eligible beneficiaries who continue to receive medical care from their current Medicare providers will have TRICARE as their second payer. TRICARE will pay their out-of-pocket costs for services covered under Medicare. In addition, they will have access to TRICARE benefits which may not be covered under Medicare. To participate in the health program, beneficiaries must be eligible for Medicare Part A and enrolled in Medicare Part B.

"We are pleased to have the legislative authority to provide our Medicare-eligible beneficiaries health care benefits similar to those other military beneficiaries receive. We have begun to work out the many details for each new authority and will continue to update our web site as we progress at http://www.tricare.osd.mil//ndaa/fast_facts.htm . This new authority gives us the ability to keep the faith with America's military," said Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs J. Jarrett Clinton.

According to TRICARE Management Activity officials, who will administer the new benefit, eligible seniors should NOT immediately cancel their current "Medigap" insurance coverage. The Department of Defense is working with the Health Care Financing Administration (the organization that administers the Medicare benefit) to provide the most accurate information on the appropriateness of continued enrollment in "Medigap" insurance policies.

According to TRICARE Management Activity officials, eligible beneficiaries should do two things now to ensure their future eligibility for TRICARE benefits.

First, they should update their Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS) record with their correct address and any changes in family status such as marriage, divorce, birth or adoption. Home addresses are important because the address on file with DEERS is used to send out information on health benefits. In addition, health benefits could be denied if DEERS is not updated to reflect a new spouse or child. Retirees may update DEERS by:

Going to the nearest military personnel office;

E-mailing changes to addrinfo@osd.pentagon.mil

Mailing changes to the DEERS Support Office, ATTN: COA, 400 Gigling Road, Seaside, CA 93955-6771;

Calling the toll-free numbers for the DEERS Support Office, 1-800-334-4162 (California only), 1-800-527-5602 (Alaska and Hawaii), and 1-800-538-9552 for the rest of the United States.

Second, eligible beneficiaries should enroll in Medicare Part B if they haven't already. If they are not sure if they are enrolled, they can check the back of their Social Security card for this information. To enroll, beneficiaries must submit an application for Medicare Part B directly to the Social Security Administration. The General Enrollment Period for enrollment in Medicare Part B is held January 1 through March 31 of each year, and Part B coverage starts on July 1 of that year. For details on enrollment in Part B, beneficiaries may call the SSA toll-free number, 800-772-1213, or visit any Social Security office. They also can find information on the Medicare Web site, http://medicare.gov .


Information Courtesy of American Forces Information Service

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