Military Advantage

How Does the Government Shutdown Affect Your Health Care?

Government Shutdown

In case you hadn't heard, there is a partial shutdown of some government agencies. While the list of agencies affected by the shutdown, and the government services available, seems to change from day to day, there is one thing to know: Your health benefits are not affected at this time.

Tricare

For the most part, Tricare is not hurt at all by the partial shutdown at this time. In part, that's because the Defense Department isn't one of the agencies impacted.

But the Department of Homeland Security and the Coast Guard are. And Coasties use Tricare too.

The shutdown has affected allotments that Coast Guard members, their family members and survivors use to pay their Tricare enrollment fees, as well as dental and vision insurance premiums with BENEFEDS.

Since Coast Guard members aren't getting paid, there are no allotments going out to pay their insurance premiums.

Tricare says it will continue to cover all Coast Guard members, regardless of premium payments, for the foreseeable future.

However, BENEFEDS (the agency running dental and vision insurance) says, "Depending on the length of the shutdown, we may need to bill you directly for your premiums. If you receive a direct bill, you must pay it on time to ensure continuation of your coverage. When deductions and allotments resume, we will attempt to collect any missed premiums by adjusting future deductions or allotments from your pay."

Wait, what?

Yep, if the shutdown continues, Coast Guard members may have to pay their premiums out-of-pocket to continue their insurance, even though they aren't getting paid for working every day.

Oh, and when Coast Guard members do get paid again, you can bet all those missed premiums will be taken out before they see one dime of pay. And if they do have to pay their premiums out-of-pocket because the shutdown lasts too long, I would be willing to bet that somehow things will get screwed up.

Speaking from experience, I would venture a guess that the government will still withhold premiums from Coast Guard members' back pay (even if they paid out-of-pocket) and it will take months to get things fixed.

VA Health Care

The Department of Veterans Affairs says, "All VA medical centers and clinics will remain fully operational and will continue to provide health care services ... during the government shutdown. Previously scheduled VA health care appointments are not affected."

That means that you don't have to worry about seeing your VA doctor or VA Choice provider for any health care needs you may have. In fact, all VA services remain open and all VA employees are on the job. The VA was one of the few government agencies that had a new budget in place before the shutdown, so it hasn't been affected in any way.

In fact, you can still get your prescriptions filled, make appointments with medical providers, and get any other VA benefits in the same way you did before the shutdown.

So the good news is that your VA health care and other benefits are still available, and most Tricare users are unaffected.

Coast Guard members, I see hassles in your future, although I'm sure you are being briefed by the chain-of-command and support agencies on a regular basis.

Luckily, you Coasties are in a community that is small enough to take care of everyone and watch out for its members. Just remember, there is always help available at Coast Guard Mutual Assistance.

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