TRICARE coverage for college students

  • Published
  • By Tyler Patterson
  • TriWest Healthcare Alliance
Now that your children are going to college, if you're like most of us, you've got some new houseguests to take their place: pride and paranoia. What if something happens to them while they're hundreds--or even thousands--of miles away? Who is looking after their health?

The good news is, whether they're staying in state or heading across the country, it only takes a few easy steps to ensure TRICARE coverage wherever they go.

1) Maintain Eligibility
An up-to-date record in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS) is the key to your child remaining eligible and avoiding unnecessary out-of-pocket costs and claims issues. Visit to learn how to update addresses and other important information.

As long as your children are enrolled as full-time college students and you supply more than 50 percent of their income, they will remain TRICARE-eligible until age 23 or until they graduate, whichever comes first.

Parents should be aware that eligibility for TRICARE does not automatically continue; no matter which TRICARE plan you use, you will have to submit paperwork to DEERS before your children are 21 to continue coverage until age 23.

Your children should also have valid uniformed service ID cards.

2) Check Availability
If your children are moving away from home, the TRICARE program they used at home may not be available in their new location.

Students enrolled in TRICARE Prime should use their benefits in TRICARE Prime Service Areas, usually near a military clinic. In the TRICARE West Region, you can confirm TRICARE Prime availability by checking "Prime Eligibility" in TriWest's Military Clinic Locator ( Students can transfer their Prime enrollment to the new location or start a new Prime enrollment there, and will access their care through a local primary care manager (PCM).

If Prime is not available, students can still access care through TRICARE-authorized providers using TRICARE Standard and Extra. There is no enrollment requirement to use TRICARE Standard and Extra. However, if your children previously had Prime coverage, they will have to disenroll from Prime. You can download a disenrollment form at  

3) Split Enrollment: Don't Pay Two Enrollment Fees
For retiree TRICARE Prime families, when a child attends college in a different TRICARE region, there won't be two enrollment fees. TRICARE allows you to "split" the enrollment and only pay one family enrollment fee to your region. Contact the TRICARE contractor in your family's region and the contractor in your child's new TRICARE region to set up the split enrollment; find the regional contact information at

4) Plan for Vacations
If your child travels or returns home, TRICARE coverage follows. Prime students will have to coordinate non-emergency care with their PCM. For trips back home to the family's region over 30 days, temporarily transfer enrollment to the new regional contractor. Students traveling outside of their region with Standard and Extra coverage don't need to transfer enrollment, but will still be responsible for their deductibles and cost-shares. Complete and file any claim paperwork with the region where the student lives.

Impact of Health Care Reform
As the parent of a college student, you are likely very interested in how the new Health Care Reform Act will impact your college age children. Current age limits (21 or 23 if the dependent is a full-time student) are set by statute, therefore separate legislation would be required to change them. Legislation to extend TRICARE benefits to dependents up to age 26 is still pending, therefore the benefit remains unchanged at this time.

Need more info?
Visit and click the "Life Changing Events" link for more details, including pharmacy and dental coverage for college students. Rules for maintaining coverage while attending school overseas may be different. Visit for more information.