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Servicemembers with orders to Japan who plan to bring parents, or parents-in-law claimed as dependents, shouldn’t plan on using Tricare Prime to cover the dependents’ overseas medical needs, according to Tricare officials.

Health insurance that can be used overseas is mandatory for such a relative to live in Japan as a dependent of an active-duty servicemember. But dependent parents and parents-in-law are not eligible for Tricare Prime, Standard, Extra or Tricare For Life, according to the Tricare Web site.

“Unfortunately, many are just not aware prior to permanent change-of-station moves overseas … that they must have the other health insurance,” said Courtney B. McCarthy, Tricare assistant at the Navy Branch Health Clinic, Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni.

She said Tricare Prime and other plan variations are available to all active-duty servicemembers and their immediate family members: spouses, children and adopted children.

Branch health clinics such as Iwakuni’s are equipped to treat “a younger, healthier community of active-duty members and may not be able to meet all the parent dependents’ medical needs,” McCarthy said.

Dependent parents or parents-in-law unable to get needed treatment at military medical facilities are referred to the Japanese health-care system, in which payment typically can be required at the time service is rendered. In the end, McCarthy said, payment responsibility falls on the patient’s sponsor.

“This is a policy that applies to the Air Force and all DOD entities,” said Maj. Evyn Helber, Yokota Air Base’s Tricare representative.

Parents and parents-in-law who have been officially classified as dependents in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System, or DEERS, are “only entitled to direct care in the military system on a space-available basis.”

“These cases do occur on occasion at Yokota, but normally only a handful of cases per year,” Helber said.

The U.S. Naval Hospital at Yokosuka Naval Base near Tokyo operates branch health clinics to handle medical and dental needs of personnel at Iwakuni, Sasebo Naval Base and Naval Air Facility Atsugi.

Yokota Air Base, Misawa Air Base and Camp Zama personnel are subject to the same Tricare benefits and eligibility requirements.

Dependent parents and parents-in-law are treated as space permits, clinic officials said. They would be turned away only if surgical or inpatient care is required.

McCarthy urged servicemembers to analyze the financial implications before bringing dependent parents or parents-in-law to Japan.

Individuals should visit the Tricare Web site at www.tricare.osd.mil or call their base’s Tricare Center for more information, she added.

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