New legislation affects Tricare supplements

FALLS CHURCH, Va. (AFRNS) -- Many Tricare beneficiaries are getting letters from their employer stating they will no longer offer Tricare supplements as an employer-sponsored medical option effective Jan 1. Beneficiaries should look closely at their health-care options, according to Tricare officials.

A provision of the John Warner National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal 2007 prohibits employers from offering their employees financial or other incentives to use Tricare rather than the company's group health plan. The legislation applies to any employer, including states and units of local government with 20 or more employees, and mirrors the same prohibition that currently applies to Medicare.

Beneficiaries have earned their right to Tricare benefits through their service and this remains unchanged. Tricare beneficiaries should take measures to understand and look closely at all of their health-care options offered by Tricare and their current employer before deciding what is best for them and their families. Eligible beneficiaries can enroll in Tricare on their own without taking employer incentives if desired.

The employer can still offer "cafeteria plans" to their Tricare-eligible beneficiaries as long as the plans are offered to all of their employees, including those who are not eligible for Tricare. The legislation does not have an impact on "Tricare Supplement" plans that are not offered by the employer, but are sold by beneficiary associations or commercial insurers.

A cafeteria plan is defined as a fringe-benefit plan under which employees may choose among various benefits that best fit their needs, up to a specified dollar value.

The legislation was initiated after evidence showed many employers were consciously working to shift their health-care costs to Tricare by offering financial incentives urging eligible employees to use Tricare rather than the employer's group health plan.  (Courtesy of Air Force Print News)