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Don't leave TRICARE at home

A chart of common ailments while traveling. (Graphic courtesy of TriWest)

A chart of common ailments while traveling. (Graphic courtesy of TriWest)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- You worked hard all year, spent time planning your vacation and are now looking forward to some time away from home, whether it be in the mountains, at the beach or overseas. 

While you're counting down the days until you leave and crossing off items on your to-do list, don't forget to consider your health care benefits. Sometimes, even the most meticulous planning won't prevent you or your family members from getting the most common illnesses while on vacation, such as sunburn, allergies, fever and motion sickness, or accidents that may require a trip to a doctor or hospital. 

Here are some items to include on your to-do list before leaving for your destination.

1) Ensure the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS) records are up-to-date in case you need care on the road. Update your family's information in DEERS by: 

· Logging onto the DEERS Web site at https://www.dmdc.osd.mil/appj/address/indexAction.do
· Calling 1-800-538-9552
· Visiting an ID card issuing facility (locations at www.dmdc.osd.mil)  
· Faxing changes to 1-831-655-8317
· Mailing changes to: 

     Defense Manpower Data Center Support Office
     Attn: COA
     400 Gigling Road
     Seaside, CA 93955-6771 

2) Visit your physician for routine care before you leave, including general office visits for treatment and ongoing care. Care must be received at your assigned military treatment facility or primary care manager's office. 

3) Pack the prescription medicines you take every day, making sure you have enough to last during your trip. Keep them in their original prescription bottles and always in your carry-on luggage. If you need a refill before you leave, the most cost-effective way is to visit the on-base pharmacy. 

A second option is to use the TRICARE Mail Order Pharmacy program. Not only is there considerable cost savings (up to 66 percent), but you can also save yourself a trip to the pharmacy. TMOP offers up to a 90-day supply of medication for the same copayment as a 30-day supply from a retail pharmacy. Your TMOP prescription will be delivered straight to your mailbox. 

4) Pack TRICARE Prime cards, military or uniformed services ID cards and important contact information.

5) Research locations of emergency and urgent care facilities. If you need to visit, understand the emergency and urgent care guidelines. Urgent care procedures vary by location. Contact the local military treatment facility or visit the TRICARE Service Center before receiving care to learn how to avoid out-of-pocket costs You can also call 1-888-TriWest, 24 hours a day.

6) If you experience an emergency while traveling, emergency care does not require prior authorization before treatment, so: 

· Seek emergency care immediately at the nearest hospital.
· TRICARE Prime beneficiaries should notify your PCM and TriWest within 24 hours or by the next business day of any emergency room visit or admission (whether the ER visit was inpatient or outpatient) to avoid higher out-of-pocket costs. Contact TriWest at 1-888-TRIWEST (874-9378).

Hopefully, your vacation will be incident free. However, knowing about your benefits will give you peace of mind in case of any health care emergencies during your vacation.