Changes are on the way for military dental benefits

Mary Otto

About Mary Otto

Mary Otto, a Washington, D.C.-based freelancer, is AHCJ's topic leader on oral health and the author of "Teeth: The Story of Beauty, Inequality, and the Struggle for Oral Health in America." She can be reached at mary@healthjournalism.org.

Photo: Marine Forces Reserve via Flickr

Changes are coming for 1.6 million military retirees and family members who obtain oral health care benefits through the TRICARE Retiree Dental Program (TRDP).

The premium-based dental plan, managed by the Defense Health Agency (DHA), is slated to shut down on Dec. 31.

To avoid losing dental coverage, enrollees will need to take action.

They will have the chance to select a new dental plan from among the 10 offered by the Federal Employees Dental/Vision Program (FEDVIP) during an open enrollment period scheduled for Nov. 12 through Dec. 10, 2018.

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) which oversees FEDVIP is  expected to announce available plans in October. The new dental coverage will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2019.

The OPM has set up a Frequently Asked Questions page to help beneficiaries prepare for the change.

Active duty service members and their families will continue to obtain  dental care at military treatment facilities or through separate TRICARE dental contracts managed by the DHA, the Congressional Research Service has reported.

The change is being implemented in accordance with the National Defense Authorization Act of 2017.

As they did under TRDP, enrollees will pay the entire cost of the premiums for their dental coverage under FEDVIP.

In making the switch, they should weigh their choices carefully, Jim Absher reported in a story for Military.com.

“The new dental plan will offer coverage options from ten insurers, with each providing at least two different levels of coverage: standard and high,” Absher explained in the article.

“Under both the current TDRP and the upcoming FEDVIP, monthly premiums are based on location,” he noted.

Prices will also vary based upon the level of the plan that beneficiaries choose.

“For example, someone getting family coverage in Zone E, which is made up of 27 states, pays $115 each month under the current TRDP, while the same person using FEDVIP would pay between $60 and $175 each month, depending on the insurance plan they choose.”

Military.com has posted additional FEDVIP Tips to help military retirees and their families prepare for the transition.

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