Military retirees who plan to enroll in dental coverage for 2019 will be able to research available plans starting Oct 1.
The Tricare Retiree Dental Plan (TRDP) ends Dec. 31. Retirees who want to maintain dental coverage must select a plan from the buffet of options included in the Federal Employee Vision and Dental Insurance Program (FEDVIP). They will also be newly eligible to enroll in vision coverage, as will active-duty families.
Enrollment for those plans runs between Nov. 12 and Dec. 10. Retirees who do not select a plan during that period will be without coverage in 2019, unless they experience a qualifying life event, such as an employment change or relocation.
How the FEDVIP plans compare in cost and coverage to the current TRDP plan depends on a variety of factors, including the beneficiary's location and the plan and coverage they desire.
Retirees can view more information on the FEDVIP website and, starting Oct. 1, compare plans.
"I think that all of our plans have good value," said Alan Spielman, director of health care and insurance for the Office of Personnel Management, which oversees the FEDVIP program.
TRDP organizes its premium rates through a four-region structure in which prices are based on cost of living, among other factors. TRDP users in Region A, for example, currently pay monthly premiums of $28.90 for an individual, $57.88 for two people and $101.12 for a family, while those in Region E pay $45.72 for an individual, $89.91 for two people and $157.10 for a family.
FEDVIP's 15 plans are similarly structured through five rating areas, also based on zip code. Each plan comes with a different premium price, and not all plans may be available in all areas.
Under FEDVIP, many retirees will likely see a decrease to their premium costs, depending on which plan they choose.
A Military.com review of plan options identified the FEDVIP Delta Dental PPO Standard plan as being similar to Tricare's current coverage, which is also provided through Delta Dental. For that plan, 2019 premium prices in all regions are lower than military retirees pay now.
In FEDVIP's Region One, for example, premiums for that plan in 2019 will be $18.81 for an individual, $37.59 for two people and $56.40 for a family, well below those currently required in TRDP's Region A. For FEDVIP Region Five, those rates will be $26.59 for an individual, $53.17 for two people and $79.76 for a family. TRDP's highest-cost region, Region E, currently requires premiums up to $80 more per month for its similar plan.
FEDVIP officials and military advocates said retirees should view the new plans as an opportunity to shop around and make sure they have the coverage they both want and need, a freedom that is not available under the current program.
Kathy Beasley, a Military Officers Association of America (MOAA) deputy director of government relations who works on Tricare issues, said she is advising its members to take a multi-step approach to the new program.
For starters, "you need to look at what your family and dental needs will be for the next year," she said she tells MOAA members.
Then, she said, users should ask their dentist which FEDVIP plans they accept, get a review from their current dentist on any existing treatment plan they may have for major or expensive work, and research and compare the plans available for their region.
Compared to the FEDVIP plans and premiums offered this year, premiums for 2019 are expected to be about 1.2 percent higher year-over-year. That increase is the lowest the system has seen since the mid-1990s, Spielman said.
He said he hopes to create a smooth transition for military retirees by working with the Pentagon to communicate the changes. More than 150,000 users have registered on the FEDVIP website for updates as the process unfolds, he added.
"We have been partnering with the Department of Defense both on operational planning and communication," Spielman said. "It's very important in our communications to make this population aware that they must make a choice."
A provision in the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) also expands FEDVIP dental plans to active-duty families, National Guardsmen and Reservists and their families and military survivors, starting in 2022.
-- Military.com content writer Jim Absher contributed to this report.
-- Amy Bushatz can be reached at email@example.com.