Military retiree dental program changes name and administrator

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: George Lezenby via Flickr

Participants in a dental benefit plan for U.S. military retirees will need to take action soon to hold onto coverage.

The TRICARE Retiree Dental Program (TRDP), which now covers 1.6 million military retirees and family members, is shutting down at the end of the year.

The program, managed by the Defense Health Agency, is being replaced by the Federal Employees Dental/Vision Program (FEDVIP), overseen by the federal Office of Personnel Management (OPM.) The change is in accordance with the National Defense Authorization Act of 2017.

To continue coverage, beneficiaries must select a new dental plan from among those offered by FEDVIP during an enrollment period set for Nov. 12 through Dec. 10. The new benefits go into effect on Jan. 1.

The new option includes six national dental plans: Aetna Dental, Delta Dental, FEP Blue Dental, GEHA, MetLife and United Concordia Dental, as well as four regional plans: Dominion Dental, EmblemHealth, Humana and Triple-S Salud. Enrollees can use their ZIP codes to check availability and premiums using a FEDVIP information portal which includes a comparison tool for the various plans.

Additional information is provided in this OPM fact sheet.

As they do under TRDP, enrollees pay the entire cost of premiums for their dental coverage under FEDVIP. Rates and benefits vary among the dental plans. Vision coverage also will be available.

“We want to get this information out as soon as we can to give people extra time to make their decisions,” Kathy Beasley, of the Military Officers Association of America told reporter Karen Jowers, who reported on the change for militarytimes.com.

Beasley suggested that retirees discuss the various coverage options and their treatment needs with their oral health care providers before making a choice.

“Your dentist knows your dental health and what you might anticipate in the future,” Beasley advised. “Do your due diligence and look at the pricing. Look at the plan comparison tool, and make your decision based on that.” Similarly, Steven Snyder, who chairs the American Dental Association’s Council on Dental Benefits, encouraged dentists to discuss the transition with their retired military patients.

“Many dental offices may be treating patients who are retired from the military and using the Tricare dental plan,” Snyder, told Jennifer Garvin, writing for the ADA News. “Following enrollment in the Federal Employee Dental and Vision Insurance Plan, their benefits may be significantly different. Offices should have a conversation about the patients’ needs and their new benefits along with explaining the office’s financial policies.”

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

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