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Scene, Sunday, May 27, 2007

Q. We are stationed in Europe, and our family is planning a summer trip that will take us far from our home base. What if one of us gets hurt or needs to see a doctor for any reason? How can we get medical care? Will we have to pay for it out of our own pocket? If so, will Tricare reimburse us? Our whole family is enrolled in Tricare prime.

— Worried Traveler

A. Concern is a better word than worry for this question. As many military families like yours and mine prepare for the summer traveling season, planning ahead is essential. This goes double for things we hope won’t happen: illness or accident during vacation.

Your first instinct, get care immediately and permission afterward, is right on target for health emergencies that arise on a trip. You do not need pre-approval for emergency care, even while traveling overseas, said George Woodward of Tricare- Europe. He said it is important, however, to contact the Tricare Service Center for your home installation as soon as possible afterward.

For non-emergency care, however, you do need prior authorization from your primary care manager or the Tricare Service Center for your home base or post.

“Keep in mind,” Woodward said, “that you may be required to pay up front for the care you receive and file a claim for reimbursement.” This applies to all kinds of medical care, even emergency care.

It’s a good idea to write down the phone numbers of your primary care manager and the Tricare Service Center for your installation. Have them close at hand, and be aware of their business hours.

Another good number to have is the International SOS Call Center at 44-20-8762-8133. This center takes collect calls 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. “Active duty service members traveling anywhere in the world, on leave or official business,” can call this number for assistance with a medical emergency, Woodward said.

For other information, or for help filing a claim, you can go to www.europe.tricare.osd.mil.

Q. When I go to the clinic, one of the questions they always ask is “Do you have insurance besides Tricare?” This always makes me wonder if I should have another form of insurance. Should I? Is there something that Tricare won’t cover, that another insurance policy would? Should we have extra coverage for catastrophic illnesses and such? Why do they always ask that?

— Bernadette MastroianniRamstein, Germany

A. If you do have insurance in addition to Tricare, that supplemental insurance will be billed first before Tricare kicks in, said the Patient Liaison at a military clinic in my area. That is why your military health care provider wants this information up front. This question is intended to find out whether you have a Tricare supplement, not to suggest that you should or should not have one. That is an individual decision. However, if you do have additional insurance, the liaison told me, you must let the clinic know when they ask. If you have other insurance and you say that you do not, it is a crime, she said, and punishable by a hefty fine. With insurance, as in life, honesty is the best policy.

Terri Barnes is a military spouse and mother of three. She and her family live in Germany, where her husband is stationed at Ramstein, AB. Contact her at spousecalls@stripes.com and read the Spouse Calls blog at blogs.stripes.com/blogs/spousecalls

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