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ARLINGTON, Va. — Overseas military family members who need dental work may be in for an unpleasant surprise.

As of Dec. 3, Tricare Dental Program (TDP) enrollees who are not command-sponsored will no longer be eligible to receive overseas TDP cost-sharing benefits.

Until now, Tricare had been paying the cost-shares and other out-of-pocket expenses for many TDP dental services for all TDP enrollees living outside the continental United States.

After Dec. 3, plan enrollees who are not command-sponsored will be responsible for the same costs as beneficiaries living in the United States.

Such individuals also will be responsible for any difference between the dentist’s charge and the allowable cost negotiated for each procedure between Tricare and dental contractor United Concordia.

Those costs could add up quickly:

Cost-sharing ranges from 0 percent for diagnostic, emergency and some preventative work, to as much as 50 percent.For example, oral surgery cost-sharing is 30 percent for families of those who are E-1 to E-4, and 40 percent for all others.Cost-sharing for restorative work is 50 percent for families of members of all ranks.In a press release announcing the change, Tricare officials said “paying for TDP cost-share benefits for noncommand-sponsored family members was inconsistent with other Tricare programs and Defense Department policy.”

George Schad, director of the Tricare dental program in Europe and a retired Air Force dentist, said he and several colleagues tried to make a case against the change.

“We were trying to be advocates for the people, and (the existing program) had worked well for us,” he said. “Now we’ll have the haves and the have-nots. The people with command sponsorship will have a good deal, and the people without command sponsorship won’t.”

Word is already getting out, and inquires are coming into the Europe offices, Schad said.

“As people become aware of the fact that they’re not command-sponsored … those things are going to be hard to explain, especially for those whose husbands are in Iraq.”

Schad’s office, the dental program’s administrative and consultative arm, could not provide the number of patients seen by military and civilian dentists in Europe by press time.

Both Tricare Overseas Program (TOP) Prime and Tricare Global Remote Overseas programs require command sponsorship. TOP Standard members are not necessarily command-sponsored. The Tricare program a member is enrolled in is listed in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS).

Beneficiaries with questions about the dental program changes should contact United Concordia at (888) 418-0466 or e-mail them at oconus@ucci.com.

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