An upcoming change to Tricare soon could give military retirees living overseas reason to smile.
Beginning Oct. 1, those retirees will have access to dental insurance benefits that have been unavailable outside the United States, Tricare officials said in an e-mail to Stars and Stripes on Thursday.
Jeff Album, spokesman for Delta Dental, the California-based contractor that handles Tricare’s dental coverage, said the company expects about 14,000 of the 35,000 eligible retirees to take advantage of the optional program in its first year.
While the change is good news for many, it might not be cost-effective for every retiree living overseas, said Ed Chan, the Tricare Pacific director.
For instance, out-of-pocket expenses for dental care in the Philippines are generally much less than monthly insurance premiums, he said.
"In some cases, they may not get back what they paid into it," he said.
In South Korea and Japan, he said, retirees might have national insurance if they’re married to citizens of those countries, which includes some dental coverage.
In some places in Japan and Okinawa, officials say, retirees can receive free space-available care on base.
"If they use our (base) treatment facility, there is no cost for them," Chan said. "If they have to go to a civilian dentist, they’re on their own and have to pay. … So this insurance would then help them if they have to go to a civilian provider."
Retirees in South Korea have very limited on-post care. They are authorized emergency care and can get cleanings during special events such as retiree appreciation days and noncombatant evacuation exercises, said Chris Vaia, chairman of the retiree counsel at Yongsan Garrison in Seoul.
Under the new Tricare contract, beneficiaries will be able to use off-post dentists on Tricare’s approved list of providers, which can be found at www.tricaredentalprogram.com.
For orthodontic care or implants, however, special approval must be granted in advance of the work. Providers will work with local patient care representatives to obtain approval.
Patients must pay their co-pay at the time of care, and Tricare will settle the rest of the bill.
Vaia said he was thrilled to hear about the upcoming availability of dental benefits.
"This is wonderful news," he said. "I’ll probably be one of the first customers."
Album said retirees living overseas can enroll in the Tricare dental program at www.trdp.org or by calling 1-866-721-8737.