This blog is the most recent in a series helping members of the Coast Guard family understand how to use their TRICARE benefits. The blog series will continue every Monday, right here on Coast Guard All Hands.
Written by Cmdr. Paul Fawcett
Whether you’re traveling across the county or to another country, TRICARE is there to help you with your unexpected medical needs while on vacation. This article will help ensure you get the most out of your benefit while traveling, to help yourself and your family.
Planning is the key to ensuring that you have a safe and enjoyable vacation. You should first ensure that DEERS information for you and your family is accurate and up to date since this information is key to accessing care. You’ll also want to ensure that you have an adequate supply of prescription medications to last you through your vacation and well beyond, in case you are delayed and can’t get a refill. You should also check with your doctor 4-6 weeks before departing to see if you need any vaccinations for the countries you are visiting. Some vaccinations require multiple courses of treatment so allow plenty of time for that.
If you need urgent or acute care while abroad you should proceed to the nearest emergency room for the country you are in. If you need help finding one, the nearest US embassy or consulate can assist you. You can also contact the TRICARE overseas call center for assistance. You can find a list of phone numbers at www.tricare.mil/overseas. You should be aware that in many countries you will be required to pay for treatment before leaving the hospital. You should be prepared for that event. For Tricare Standard and Prime Retiree beneficiaries you will always pay for care outside the U.S. upfront and file for reimbursement from TRICARE Overseas. Prime Beneficiaries should contact TRICARE overseas while still at the medical facility to ensure billing is taken care of.
Traveling in the US
If you are traveling in the U.S. and need care for an emergency you should proceed to the nearest emergency room, TRICARE will cover episodes of emergency care. For acute, nonemergency care such as minor illnesses and emergencies you can visit a TRICARE networked urgent care center. Dependents, Standard beneficiaries, and TRICARE Prime Remote beneficiaries receive two visits per year without needing a referral. If you’re an active duty member or you’ve used your two visits per year, you’ll need a referral so that you don’t receive a bill. If you visit urgent care without a referral you can ask your provider to put a “retroactive referral” in after; however, the decision to do so is up to your doctor. If you’re traveling and have a medical question you can call the TRICARE nurse advice line to ask for advice and pose questions. You can reach the Nurse Advice Line dial 1-800-TRICARE (option 1).
Q: If I’m traveling overseas and need to be medically evacuated, will TRICARE pay for it?
A: TRICARE will pay for medically necessary medical evacuation to the nearest safe location with appropriate care, which may not include return to the U.S. or to the patients’ home. TRICARE Standard beneficiaries and retiree beneficiaries may have to pay the medical evacuation costs upfront and be reimbursed. Air medical evacuation costs are very expensive. In all cases medical evacuation must be medically necessary.
Q: How do I know who to call if I have TRICARE questions while traveling or if I need care?
A: Visit the TRICARE.mil/overseas website before you go. There is a tool to select the countries you are visiting and you can download a customized wallet card for the countries you will visit.
For questions about TRICARE visit www.TRICARE.mil or contact the Coast Guard Health Benefits Assistance line at 1-800-9-HBA-HBA or CGHBA@uscg.mil.