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Rep. introduces bill to extend Tricare for dependents until age 26

Defense officials have struggled to assure personnel in recent days that Tricare won't be changed at all by health care reform. But at least one group of military families wishes it would be: those with dependent children about to be dropped from the program.

Currently, Tricare only covers children up until age 23. Under the health care reform bill signed into law this week, health insurance providers will be required to cover children until age 26. But since Tricare programs are exempted from the measure, they won't be required to extend coverage that extra three years.

On Thursday Rep. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M.,introduced a measure to change that, mandating that Tricare increase the maximum age to 26 at which our troops and military retirees are allowed to provide health coverage to their dependent children.

“Because of the new health reform bill passed by Congress, Americans who receive health insurance through a group plan will soon be able to provide coverage to dependent children up to age 26," he said in a statement. "Our military health coverage must meet that same standard and be nothing less.

“Allowing parents to provide health coverage to their dependent adult children is just one of the many small things we can do to show our military families how much we appreciate them and honor their service to our country.”

Several lawmakers have expressed concern about the health care loophole allowing Tricare to keep the 23-year-old age limit. If approved, Heinrich's bill would go into effect on Oct. 1. The health care reform legislation already passed by Congress mandates private insurance companies extend health care to children up to 26 by this September.

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