Starting Jan. 1, Tricare will stop covering certain vitamin supplements, including some multivitamins, fluoride and iron, for roughly 25,000 beneficiaries.
Those affected received letters at the end of November from Express Scripts, the company that manages Tricare's pharmacy benefit, notifying them that only vitamins that have been reviewed by the Food and Drug Administration through clinical trials are considered prescription medications and therefore eligible for coverage.
The supplements -- 389 varieties, according to Defense Health Agency spokesman Kevin Dwyer -- lost their "preferred drug" status because they have not been reviewed by the FDA to treat a condition and are available over the counter.
According to the letter, "the change isn't the result of any issues with the vitamins themselves."
Affected beneficiaries simply will need to pay full price for these supplements if they want to continue taking them.
DHA officials said roughly 60 percent of affected patients are Tricare for Life beneficiaries. The Defense Health Agency oversees the health benefits of 9.6 million patients.
An Express Scripts spokesman said Tricare is making the change "consistent with industry standard."
"Some of the previously covered ... vitamins (those medications that require a physician-written prescription) [are becoming] over-the-counter (OTC). Thus, the vitamins will no longer be covered by the pharmacy benefit but rather available OTC," the Express Scripts spokesman said.
-- Patricia Kime can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @patriciakime.