Tricare urges military retirees to sign up for Medicare Part B coverage
By FRED ZIMMERMAN | STARS AND STRIPES Published: April 7, 2004
CAMP LESTER, Okinawa — Military retirees 65 and older and living overseas, who haven’t yet signed up for Part B Medicare coverage, just caught a break: This year, the usual hefty penalty fee for late sign-up has been waived, said Arlita McClintock, Tricare marketing representative.
Military retirees are covered by Tricare Standard medical insurance until they turn 65, she said. Then, those living in the States are covered by Medicare Part A and are eligible for Tricare for Life coverage.
Tricare Standard coverage also stops at age 65 for military retirees living overseas, McClintock said — but Medicare Part A covers only retirees living in the States. To get both Medicare and Tricare for Life, they must purchase Medicare Part B.
Medicare Part A, financed by a payroll tax, helps pay for inpatient hospital stays, care in a skilled nursing facility, hospice care and some home health care, according to the federal government’s Medicare Web site, www.medicare.gov. Medicare Part B helps pay for doctors’ services, outpatient hospital care and other medical services not covered by Part A. It is financed by the federal government and premiums paid by beneficiaries.
“At 65, you then are eligible for Tricare For Life but you have to be enrolled in Medicare Part B,” McClintock said.
However, Medicare Part B coverage costs extra. The monthly Part B premium is $66.60, according to the Medicare Web page. And customers must pay a penalty fee for every year past 65 they wait to sign up for Medicare Part B. The penalty fee, McClintock said, equals the Part B premium for every month from the 65th birthday up to the beneficiary’s age at sign-up.
Accordingly, delaying sign-up just 10 months after the 65th birthday means having to pay $666 up front to be covered by Medicare Part B and, hence, Tricare for Life — a lump sum the Tricare representative said many retirees have found hard to swallow.
But, McClintock said, “This year they’ve waived that penalty fee — so it’s important for people to sign up now.”
“If the spouse has Japanese insurance,” McClintock said, the Japanese insurance pays first “and Tricare pays second for all covered expenses.”
Patients with no Japanese insurance still can receive care off base but will have to pay 25 percent of the cost. But cheapest still is receiving care at the military facility, where office visits and medications are covered totally, McClintock said.
And although the Tricare Retiree Dental Program provides no coverage overseas, it can benefit those who often travel back to the States, she said. “For those who can utilize it, they need to know it’s there.”
For more information on Tricare For Life, go to www.tricare.osd.mil. For more information on the Tricare Retiree Dental Program, go to www.ddpdelta.org. To speak to a Tricare representative, call the Kadena Air Base office at 630-4979, or the U.S. Naval Hospital Okinawa office at 643-7539.