How to Enroll in TRICARE for Military Families

by | Tricare | 1 comment

Navigating the world of military health benefits can seem daunting, but enrolling in TRICARE doesn’t have to be a complex process. Whether you’re a service member, a veteran, or a family member, understanding how to access your health benefits is crucial. This guide aims to simplify the enrollment process, ensuring you can take full advantage of the comprehensive coverage TRICARE offers.

From eligibility requirements to step-by-step enrollment instructions, we’ve got you covered. You’ll learn about the different TRICARE plans available, how to determine which one best fits your needs, and the deadlines you need to be aware of. With the right information, enrolling in TRICARE can be a smooth and straightforward process, providing you and your family with the peace of mind that comes with reliable health care coverage.

Understanding Tricare: An Overview

After recognizing the significance of accessing military health benefits, it’s imperative to delve into the specifics of Tricare. As a comprehensive health care program, Tricare provides coverage to service members, veterans, and their families. This insurance serves as a cornerstone for securing medical services, ranging from routine checkups to emergency care.

The Tricare system categorizes plans into several key types, each tailored to different aspects of beneficiary needs. These include Tricare Prime, Tricare Select, Tricare Reserve Select, and Tricare for Life, among others. Each plan has distinct eligibility requirements, costs, and coverage benefits, making it crucial to understand these differences to select the most appropriate plan for your situation.

Eligibility for Tricare hinges on one’s status within the military community. Active duty service members, retired personnel, their dependents, and certain reservists gain access to this coverage. Importantly, eligibility extends to registered dependents in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS), underscoring the importance of keeping DEERS information up to date.

Choosing the right Tricare plan involves considering several factors, such as your geographic location, accessibility to military or civilian health care facilities, and specific health care needs. Tricare Prime often suits those preferring care managed by a primary care manager and utilizing military hospitals and clinics. In contrast, Tricare Select provides greater flexibility in choosing health care providers but may involve higher out-of-pocket costs.

Navigating the Tricare enrollment process requires understanding these nuances. Given the established eligibility criteria and the array of plan options, making informed decisions becomes feasible. With this foundational knowledge of Tricare, transitioning to the enrollment process, as outlined in the subsequent steps, will become a more manageable task.

Eligibility Requirements for Tricare

Understanding the eligibility criteria for TRICARE plays a crucial role in securing the right healthcare coverage for you and your family. Eligibility hinges on several key factors, including your relationship to the military, your status, and keeping your information current in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS).

Service Members and Their Families

  • Active Duty Service Members (ADSMs) automatically qualify for TRICARE coverage. This includes members of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, Commissioned Corps of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS).
  • Family Members of Active Duty Service Members also are eligible. This encompasses spouses and children who are registered in DEERS.
  • Retired Service Members, including those who have served 20 or more years in the military, maintain eligibility for TRICARE. Their family members do, too, provided they’re registered in DEERS.
  • Retired Reserve Members and Families become eligible once the retiree reaches age 60 and begins receiving a retirement paycheck. Registration in DEERS is key.
  • Guard/Reserve Members may be eligible for TRICARE based on their active duty status and their family members are eligible if registered in DEERS.
  • Survivors maintain their eligibility under certain conditions. This hinges on the service member’s status at the time of death and continuous DEERS registration.
  • Former Spouses who meet specific criteria, such as length of marriage overlapping with military service, may retain eligibility.
  • Medal of Honor Recipients and Families are eligible for TRICARE, with DEERS registration as a prerequisite.

Keeping your DEERS information up-to-date is essential, as any change in your family dynamics, such as marriage or the birth of a child, affects your TRICARE eligibility. Timely updates ensure uninterrupted healthcare coverage, laying the groundwork for a successful enrollment into TRICARE.

Step-by-Step Guide on How to Enroll in Tricare

Enrolling in TRICARE requires a methodical approach, ensuring you and your family secure the healthcare coverage needed. This guide walks you through the enrollment process efficiently.

Determine Eligibility

First, verify your eligibility by confirming your status in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS). Eligibility categories include active duty service members, retirees, Guard/Reserve members, survivors, former spouses, and Medal of Honor recipients.

Select a TRICARE Plan

Review and decide on the most suitable TRICARE plan for you and your family. TRICARE offers several options, including TRICARE Prime, TRICARE Select, and TRICARE For Life. Consider your healthcare needs, preferred providers, and geographical location when making this decision.

Update DEERS Information

Ensure your personal information is current in DEERS. Accurate details concerning marriage, childbirth, or other life events are crucial for maintaining uninterrupted coverage.

Enrollment Process

  • TRICARE Prime: For active duty service members and their families, enrollment is mandatory. Others eligible for TRICARE Prime can enroll online through the Beneficiary Web Enrollment (BWE) website, by phone, or by mail.
  • TRICARE Select: Enrollment is available online via BWE, by phone, or by mail. This plan offers greater flexibility in choosing healthcare providers.
  • TRICARE For Life: If you’re a Medicare-eligible beneficiary, registration in Medicare Part B automatically enrolls you in TRICARE For Life.

Completion and Confirmation

After submitting your enrollment application, wait for confirmation. This may take up to a few weeks. During this period, keep track of your paperwork and case number.

Reaching the end of this guide means you’re on your way to securing your TRICARE coverage. Remember, annual enrollment periods and life events may necessitate changes to your plan, so stay informed and prepared to adjust as needed to maintain your healthcare benefits.

After Enrollment: What to Expect

Once you’ve successfully enrolled in a TRICARE plan, understanding what comes next is crucial for making the most of your healthcare benefits. You’ll embark on a journey that necessitates staying informed and prepared to navigate the TRICARE system effectively.

Receiving Your Healthcare ID Cards

Upon enrollment, you’ll receive healthcare ID cards for each covered family member, including separate cards for dental plans if applicable. These cards serve as your gateway to accessing healthcare services and must be presented at medical appointments. Keep these cards in a safe place and always bring them along to healthcare visits.

Understanding Your Benefits

Familiarizing yourself with the specific benefits your TRICARE plan offers is vital. This includes knowing your coverage for medical visits, hospital stays, prescriptions, and specialty care. TRICARE provides extensive resources online where you can review detailed benefit explanations, ensuring you’re fully aware of what your plan entails.

Managing Referrals and Authorizations

For TRICARE Prime enrollees, understanding the referral and authorization process is crucial. Most specialist visits require a referral from your primary care manager (PCM), who will coordinate your care within the network. Staying proactive in managing these referrals is essential for timely healthcare access.

Keeping Information Current in DEERS

Continuously updating your information in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS) is crucial for maintaining uninterrupted coverage. Any changes in family status, address, or other pertinent information must be promptly reported to DEERS to ensure your TRICARE benefits remain active and accurate.

Preparing for Annual Enrollment Periods

Being aware of the annual enrollment periods allows you to reevaluate your healthcare needs and make necessary adjustments to your TRICARE coverage. Annual enrollment periods provide the opportunity to switch plans or add new family members as needed, ensuring your healthcare coverage aligns with your current needs.

By keeping these key aspects in mind after enrolling in TRICARE, you’ll be better equipped to navigate the healthcare landscape, ensuring you and your family receive the care you need when you need it.


Navigating the TRICARE system might seem daunting at first but armed with the right information, you’re well-equipped to make informed decisions about your healthcare. Remember, staying proactive about your enrollment, keeping up with annual enrollment periods, and ensuring your information is current in DEERS are key steps to smooth healthcare experiences. With the knowledge of how to enroll in TRICARE Prime, TRICARE Select, or TRICARE For Life, you’re on your way to securing the benefits you and your family need. Embrace this journey with confidence, knowing you have the tools to manage your healthcare effectively.



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