Salute to Spouses Blog

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Final week for Tricare open season selection is here

Last week my dentist held an informational meeting for military retirees to help navigate the maze thousands of military families have suddenly found themselves in – choosing their medical coverage through Tricare, otherwise known as open season.

I was the youngest person in the room, by about 20 years. And the consensus among attendees and medical professionals was: this first year of Tricare open season is a confusing one.

As my dentist’s insurance specialist explained, since it is the first time, there isn’t a lot of solid information. The amounts that each plan will pay for each type of service isn’t completely clear which makes it hard to determine what the enrollee’s payout will be after having a root canal or other costly procedure.

Many of us have additional insurance through civilian employers and the mathematical equations to determine which insurance will pay for what are not simple either.

If you haven’t picked your Tricare coverage, your deadline is Dec. 10, so you need to sit down now and review your options.

Determine your needs. If you have small children you most likely won’t need orthodontics yet. Does everyone in your house wear glasses? Take a closer look at the vision plans for the best option to replace frames for small children who may break or lose them more often. 

You may need to spend the next few days on the phone with both Tricare and your secondary insurance through your civilian employer. Who pays for what? Which one is considered your primary (it’s not always Tricare) and is there a waiting period for certain procedures? Some insurances can make you wait up to a year before using your benefits to pay for a larger procedure such as a root canal.

Now is not the time to be afraid to ask questions. Ask them all but be prepared to spend some serious time both on the phone and on the computer reviewing your options.

But be certain, the time is worth it. When you are staring at a costly medical bill and realize you skipped over the coverage that would have left you with a minimal co-pay you will regret not looking at the fine print during open season.

Worried you’ll miss something with the new open season system? Here’s what you need to know:

A few reminders:

  • Open season applies to both active duty and retired service members and their families.
  • If you are happy with your current choice of Tricare plans, you don’t have to do anything.
  • Open season only applies to those with Prime or Select. Other plans, such as Tricare Retired Reserve, Young Adult and Tricare for Life, are not part of the change.
  • After Dec. 10, you’ll have to wait until next year’s open season to make any changes unless you have a “Qualifying Life Event,” or QLE.
  • Open season will happen at approximately the same time each year – from the second week in November until the second week of October.
  • Changes made to your Tricare plan during open season do not take effect until Jan. 1.
  • A QLE is a major life change such as retirement, deployment, marriage, divorce, birth of a child and certain types of PCS moves, among other things.
  • It doesn’t cost anything to switch plans, but you will have to pay any costs associated with the new plan (for example the enrollment fee for Prime).

Need to look over the plans or enroll? Visit

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