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TRICARE officials announce Young Adult program

WASHINGTON -- The Department of Defense announced Jan. 13 its introduction of the premium-based TRICARE Young Adult Program which extends medical coverage to eligible military family members to age 26.

Expected to be in place later this spring, TYAP implements the National Defense Authorization Act of fiscal 2011. Premium costs for TYAP are not yet finalized, but the NDAA specifies rates must cover the full cost of the program.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 required civilian health plans to offer coverage to adult children until age 26. TRICARE previously met or exceeded key tenets of national health reform, including restrictions on annual limits, lifetime maximums, "high user" cancellations, or denial of coverage for pre-existing conditions - but did not include this expanded coverage for adult children. Dependent eligibility for TRICARE previously ended at age 21 or age 23 for full-time college students.

The fiscal 2011 NDAA now gives DOD officials the authority to offer similar benefits to young adults under TRICARE.

"We've been working hard to make sure we could put TRICARE Young Adult on a fast track," said Navy Rear. Adm. Christine Hunter, the TRICARE deputy director. "Fortunately for our beneficiaries concerned about health care coverage for their adult children, the law signed by the President includes opportunities for military families to elect this new premium-based plan retroactive to Jan.1."

Beginning later this spring, qualified, unmarried dependents up to age 26 will be able to purchase TRICARE coverage on a month-to-month basis - as long as they are not eligible for their own employer-sponsored health coverage.

"This program has the potential to extend TRICARE coverage to several hundred thousand additional beneficiaries," Admiral Hunter said. "The premium allows us to provide this excellent benefit to our military families while responsibly addressing the impact of health care costs on the DOD budget."

Initially, the benefit offered will be a premium-based TRICARE standard benefit. Eligible family members who receive health care between now and the date the program is fully implemented may want to purchase TYAP retroactively and should save their receipts. Premiums will have to be paid back to Jan. 1, 2011, in order to obtain reimbursement.

Adults who are no longer eligible for TRICARE, but need health insurance coverage, may wish to explore the Continued Health Care Benefit Program. CHCBP is a premium-based program offering temporary transitional health coverage for 18 to 36 months. Coverage must be purchased within 60 days of loss of TRICARE eligibility.

For more information on TYAP and CHCBP visit www.tricare.mil/