News | Aug. 5, 2021

Explore TRICARE Coverage Options for Your College Student

By TRICARE Communications

Is your son or daughter heading off to college this fall? If so, congratulations. Getting ready for college is an exciting time for incoming students and their parents. It’s also a busy time with packing, moving, and checking things off the college list. Something else you and your child may want to put a check mark next to is TRICARE coverage.
 
“Students can experience injuries or illnesses at any time while away at college,” said Elan Green, acting chief of the Policy and Programs Section of the TRICARE Health Plan at the Defense Health Agency. “So, it’s important for them to have access to health care. With TRICARE, students may remain eligible for coverage after age 21 if certain requirements are met.”
 
As your child prepares for college this fall, you may have questions about how it affects their TRICARE coverage. Here are some answers that may help. 
 
Question: Will my child’s TRICARE health plan options change after moving away?
Answer: They may. As outlined in the TRICARE Qualifying Life Events Fact Sheet, moving away to college is a Qualifying Life Event (QLE) that gives you and your family 90 days to make eligible enrollment changes. The changes your child may decide to make depend on where the college is located, sponsor status, and personal preference. For example, if your child is enrolled in TRICARE Prime or US Family Health Plan (USFHP), they may choose to keep enrollment at your (the sponsor) address. Another option is transferring enrollment to the college’s address.
 
“Students who have TRICARE Prime or USFHP are encouraged to transfer enrollment to their college address if coverage is available in their region,” added Green. “This will help them continue to get care from a primary care manager and save on out-of-pocket medical costs.”
 
Your child can also transfer TRICARE Prime coverage using the split enrollment option if attending college in another region. If TRICARE Prime is unavailable in your child’s location, switching to TRICARE Select is an option. Keep in mind, coverage will remain the same for those already enrolled in TRICARE Select or a premium-based plan, like TRICARE Reserve Select or TRICARE Retired Reserve. Check out the TRICARE Compare Plans Tool to learn more about the differences between plans.  
 
Is your child attending a service academy? Service academy cadets are also eligible for medical and dental care. Visit Attending Service Academies to learn more.
 
Question: What TRICARE options are available for students studying overseas?
Answer: Students can enroll in TRICARE Overseas Program (TOP) Select if attending college overseas alone. Students who are command-sponsored and live with their sponsor overseas remain eligible for TOP Prime or TOP Prime Remote. TOP Prime and TOP Prime Remote aren’t available to students living or traveling overseas whose sponsor lives in the U.S.
 
Question: How does my child qualify for TRICARE coverage after age 21?
Answer: Children age out of TRICARE when they turn 21. But coverage may be extended until age 23 for college students. To qualify, your son or daughter must be:
  • Unmarried
  • Receiving at least 50% of financial support from his or her sponsor
  • A full-time student enrolled at an approved institution of higher learning
 
Keep in mind, you’ll need a letter from the school’s registrar office to extend TRICARE benefits past age 21. The letter must confirm your child is enrolled full-time at an accredited college in pursuit of an associate’s degree or higher. Once you receive the letter, take it to a RAPIDS ID Card Office and update your child’s records in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System, or DEERS.
 
Question: Can my child still get TRICARE coverage after turning 23?
Answer: Yes. While regular TRICARE coverage ends at age 21—or 23 if enrolled in college—your child may qualify to purchase TRICARE Young Adult (TYA) if they meet the following criteria:
  • Unmarried, adult child of an eligible uniformed service member
  • At least age 21, but not yet age 26
  • Ineligible to enroll in their own employer-sponsored health plan
  • Ineligible for other TRICARE program coverage
  • Isn’t a member of the uniformed services
 
TYA is an individual plan that provides medical and pharmacy benefits up until age 26. Visit TYA or check out the TRICARE Young Adult Fact Sheet to learn more.
 
As you help your son or daughter explore TRICARE health options this fall, don’t forget that some colleges and universities offer student health plans. These plans qualify as other health insurance (OHI) and work with TRICARE to coordinate your benefits. Remember, TRICARE pays after OHI in most cases. Go to Using Other Health Insurance to learn how OHI works and what steps you need to take when using it.
 
Want to learn more about health plan options for college students? Visit Going to College. You can also contact your TRICARE contractor if you have any questions.
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