What is Tricare Open Enrollment?

by | Tricare | 1 comment

Navigating the world of healthcare can be daunting, but understanding the ins and outs of TRICARE Open Enrollment is crucial for military members and their families. It’s that time of year when you have the opportunity to review, change, or enroll in a TRICARE health plan. Knowing when this period occurs and what your options are can make all the difference in ensuring you and your loved ones have the coverage you need.

TRICARE Open Enrollment, also known as the TRICARE Open Season, is the prime time to make these important decisions about your healthcare coverage. Whether you’re looking to switch plans, add new family members, or enroll for the first time, this period is designed to give you the flexibility to make choices that best suit your family’s healthcare needs. Let’s dive into the key details you need to know to navigate this period with confidence.

Understanding TRICARE Open Enrollment

Understanding TRICARE Open Enrollment, also known as the TRICARE Open Season, is crucial for military members, retirees, and their families who seek to make informed decisions about their healthcare coverage. This annual period is your opportunity to review, change, or enroll in different TRICARE health plans according to your current health care needs.

Key Dates to Remember

TRICARE Open Enrollment runs from the Monday of the second full week in November to the Monday of the second full week in December. For 2023, these dates are November 13th through December 11th. Marking these dates on your calendar ensures you won’t miss the opportunity to evaluate and adjust your health care coverage for the coming year.

Available Actions During Open Enrollment

During the Open Season, you can:

  • Enroll in a TRICARE Prime or TRICARE Select plan if you’re not currently enrolled and are eligible.
  • Change your plan from TRICARE Prime to TRICARE Select, or vice versa.
  • Add or Remove family members from your plan.

What If You Miss Open Enrollment?

If you miss the Open Season window, you might have to wait another year to make voluntary changes to your TRICARE coverage unless you experience a Qualifying Life Event (QLE). QLEs such as marriage, birth of a child, or retirement allow for a 90-day period to make changes outside of the Open Season.

Importance of Preparation

Preparing for TRICARE’s Open Season involves reviewing your current healthcare needs, considering any anticipated changes in the coming year, and comparing the benefits of TRICARE Prime and TRICARE Select. This preparation enables you to make well-informed decisions, ensuring that your healthcare coverage aligns with your and your family’s needs.

Being aware of the Open Enrollment period and understanding the options available are the first steps towards optimizing your TRICARE benefits. This knowledge empowers you to take control of your healthcare needs, providing peace of mind that you’re fully protected throughout the year.

Preparing for TRICARE Open Enrollment

Preparing for TRICARE Open Enrollment, or the TRICARE Open Season, requires a structured approach to ensure you and your family maintain the best possible healthcare coverage. This period, crucial for active and retired military members, allows you to enroll in or change your TRICARE health plans. Taking steps to prepare can significantly enhance your ability to make informed decisions about your healthcare needs. Here’s how:

  1. Review Current Health Coverage: Start by evaluating your existing TRICARE plan. Assess how well it met your healthcare needs over the past year, considering any changes in your family’s health or potential future medical requirements.
  2. Understand Plan Options: Familiarize yourself with the different TRICARE plans available, including TRICARE Prime and TRICARE Select. Each plan offers distinct benefits, cost-shares, and provider networks, so understanding the specifics is vital.
  3. Compare Plan Costs and Benefits: Analyze the costs associated with each plan, such as premiums, deductibles, and out-of-pocket expenses. Balance these against the benefits, like coverage for specialty care, mental healthcare, and emergency services.
  4. Check Provider Availability: Ensure your preferred healthcare providers and facilities are in-network for the plan you’re considering. Changing plans might mean changing doctors, so it’s important to know this in advance.
  5. Update Personal Information: Make sure your contact information and family status are up to date in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS) to avoid any enrollment issues.
  6. Set reminders for Key Dates: Note the start and end dates of the Open Enrollment period to ensure you don’t miss the opportunity to make changes. It typically occurs from the beginning of November through mid-December annually.

By addressing these key areas before the TRICARE Open Enrollment period begins, you position yourself to make the best healthcare decisions for you and your family. Being proactive, informed, and ready allows for a smooth transition should you decide to switch plans or enroll for the first time.

How to Enroll or Change Your Plan

Enrolling or changing your TRICARE plan during the Open Enrollment period requires careful attention to deadlines and procedures. If you’ve evaluated your current health coverage and decided to make a change, or if you’re enrolling for the first time, here’s what you need to know.

  1. Review Plan Options:
    First, familiarize yourself with the TRICARE plans available to you. TRICARE Prime and TRICARE Select are the primary options for most beneficiaries, each with its own set of benefits, costs, and provider networks.
  2. Check Eligibility:
    Confirm your eligibility for the plan you’re interested in. Eligibility factors may include your military status, geographical location, and whether you’re part of a military family.
  3. Gather Necessary Information:
    Prepare all required documentation, such as proof of military service, identification, and any previous health insurance information.
  4. Visit the TRICARE Website:
    The official TRICARE website is the primary resource for enrollment. It offers detailed instructions, forms, and contact information for assistance.
  5. Contact a TRICARE Representative:
    If you have specific questions or need guidance, reaching out to a TRICARE representative can provide personalized assistance. They can help clarify any uncertainties you have about plans or the enrollment process.
  6. Submit Your Enrollment Request:
    Depending on your chosen plan and location, you may be able to enroll online, by mail, or by phone. Ensure you complete all steps as outlined on the TRICARE website or by the representative.
  7. Confirm Your Enrollment:
    After submitting your enrollment request, verify that your enrollment or plan change has been processed. Confirmation can take a few days, so it’s wise to follow up if you don’t receive an update within the expected timeframe.

Timing is critical during TRICARE Open Enrollment. Missing the enrollment window means you’ll have to wait until the next Open Season, unless you qualify for a Special Enrollment Period due to life events like marriage, birth of a child, or retirement. By following the steps outlined, you can navigate the TRICARE Open Enrollment process smoothly and ensure you and your family have the coverage you need.

Navigating TRICARE Plans During Open Enrollment

Navigating TRICARE plans during Open Enrollment requires understanding each plan’s features and determining which best fits your healthcare needs. TRICARE offers several plan options, including TRICARE Prime, TRICARE Select, and for retirees, TRICARE For Life. Evaluate each plan’s benefits, cost-sharing, and provider networks to make an informed decision.

Consider these steps to navigate your options:

  • Review Plan Differences: TRICARE Prime offers a managed care option where you’ll receive most of your care from a primary care manager. TRICARE Select provides more flexibility, allowing you to visit any TRICARE-authorized provider without a referral.
  • Check Eligibility: Certain plans, like TRICARE Prime, have location restrictions. Ensure you’re eligible for the plan you’re considering based on where you live.
  • Compare Costs: Examine the costs associated with each plan, including premiums, deductibles, and co-pays. These can vary significantly and impact your budget.
  • Assess Healthcare Needs: Consider your and your family’s healthcare needs over the past year. High utilization may suggest a plan with lower out-of-pocket costs.
  • Use Resources: The TRICARE website offers plan comparison tools that highlight differences in coverage, costs, and benefits. Utilize these tools to compare plans side by side.
  • Seek Assistance: If you’re uncertain about which plan to choose, TRICARE representatives can provide guidance. They can clarify plan details, eligibility requirements, and enrollment processes.

By following these steps, you’ll be better positioned to select a TRICARE plan that meets your healthcare needs during Open Enrollment. Remember, the choice you make during this period will be your healthcare coverage for the coming year, unless you experience a qualifying life event that allows for enrollment changes outside the Open Enrollment period. It’s crucial to make a well-informed decision.

Tips for a Smooth TRICARE Open Enrollment Experience

Navigating the TRICARE Open Enrollment period necessitates a proactive approach to ensure you and your family retain the most suitable healthcare coverage. After understanding the importance of this period, as well as the actions you can take and the consequences of inaction, employing specific strategies can further streamline your enrollment experience.

  • Start Early: The Open Enrollment period offers a limited window to review, change, or enroll in TRICARE health plans. Begin your process as soon as the period starts to avoid last-minute rushes, ensuring you have ample time to assess your options and make informed decisions.
  • Gather Documentation: Have all necessary personal and family health documents at hand. This includes previous health records, current medications, and any anticipated healthcare needs. Such preparation enables efficient comparisons between TRICARE Prime and TRICARE Select or any other available plans.
  • Use TRICARE Resources: Take advantage of resources provided by TRICARE, such as the plan comparison tool on the TRICARE website. These tools simplify the complex details of different health plans, making it easier to understand benefits, costs, and provider networks.
  • Consult with Experts: If you find yourself unsure about any aspect of the Open Enrollment process, reach out to a TRICARE representative. These professionals can offer personalized guidance, answer specific questions, and assist with navigating potential challenges.
  • Evaluate Healthcare Needs Annually: Your healthcare requirements can change annually, necessitating a reassessment of your current plan’s suitability each Open Enrollment period. Consider any new medical conditions, anticipated surgeries, or changes in family status that affect your healthcare coverage needs.

Following these tips during the TRICARE Open Enrollment period empowers you to choose a plan that best aligns with your healthcare needs, ensuring you and your family receive comprehensive coverage throughout the year.


Navigating TRICARE Open Enrollment doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Armed with the right information and a proactive approach you’re well on your way to securing the best healthcare coverage for you and your loved ones. Remember the importance of this annual window and use it as an opportunity to reassess your family’s healthcare needs. With the tools and tips provided don’t hesitate to dive in early and consult with experts if needed. Making informed decisions now ensures you’re well-prepared for whatever the year ahead brings.



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