Lawmakers Renew Effort to Eliminate Tricare Young Adult Premiums

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Ear Nose and Throat Clinic otolaryngologist examines student.
Lt. Col. Chester Barton, 374th Ear Nose and Throat Clinic otolaryngologist, examines Guy Chad Schuch Jr. at Yokota Air Base, Japan, Feb. 16, 2017. (U.S. Air Force/Airman 1st Class Elizabeth Baker)

Two members of the House of Representatives have reintroduced a bill that would allow military dependents to remain on their parents' health plan until age 26 without paying monthly premiums.

Rep. Elaine Luria, D-Va., and Rep. Michael Waltz, R-Fla., introduced a bill Monday that would let military dependents stay on Tricare through age 26 without paying the monthly premiums now required under Tricare Young Adult.

Currently, dependent children of active-duty or retired personnel lose their Tricare eligibility at age 21, or age 23 if they are full-time students. Active-duty families pay no annual enrollment fees for their health care, while retired personnel pay $300 a year for Tricare Select and $606 per year for a family.

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When their dependent young adults turn 21 or 23, military and retiree families often face sticker shock over the cost of Tricare Young Adult coverage, which costs $459 a month for Tricare Young Adult Prime and $257 for Tricare Young Adult Select.

Luria said the legislation is important because it would put Tricare in line with the Affordable Care Act, which allows young adult dependents to stay on their parents' health insurance until age 26 without premium increases.

"It's an oversight that we want to correct. Military families using Tricare don't have the same ability. I think it's incredibly important to address that and extend that benefit," she said.

Waltz, a National Guard officer who uses Tricare Reserve Select for his health care, said the issue is important to recruitment and retention.

"We can't have our military members worried about their families when they go downrange," he said. "I can tell you that, particularly with the amount of deployments we are seeing with the active-duty and the National Guard ... the least we can do and should do is take care of their families back home. Oftentimes, [health care] is a critical decision factor when military members are deciding to extend their service or move on to the private sector."

Luria introduced the bill last year, although it was not included in the final version of the fiscal 2021 National Defense Authorization Act.

The legislation would affect roughly 37,000 families, according to 2020 data. How many active-duty families would be affected has not been disclosed; Defense Department officials have said the majority of military dependents who use Tricare Young Adult are the children of retirees.

According to Waltz, the Congressional Budget Office has estimated that the cost to the government would be $125 million a year. But he added that cost estimates should also consider the proposal's retention benefits.

"I put this in the 'It's the right thing to do' category," Waltz said.

Tricare Young Adult was created in 2011 following passage of the Affordable Care Act, which allowed adult children to remain on their parents' health plans until age 26. Military service members were exempt from the national health care reform law, so separate legislation was required to extend the benefit.

However, the legislation required that the cost of Tricare Young Adult be covered by the program, necessitating premiums based on commercial insurance rates and coverage.

In 2021, premiums increased by 22% for Tricare Young Adult Prime and by 13% for Tricare Young Adult Standard.

Luria said she has received numerous calls from constituents about the increased cost of Tricare Young Adult. Her district includes Naval Air Station Oceana and Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story.

Waltz's district lies just south of Jacksonville, home to Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Marine Corps Support Facility Blount Island and Naval Station Mayport.

"We've gotten quite a few calls. ... The cost of Tricare for active-duty with dependents as well as retirees has gone up," Luria said.

-- Patricia Kime can be reached at Patricia.Kime@Monster.com. Follow her on Twitter @patriciakime.

Related: Tricare Young Adult Premiums to Rise Sharply in 2021

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