FALLS CHURCH, Va. - ’Tis the season for holiday travel. According to the Transportation Security Administration, a record number of flyers is expected this holiday season. Kicking it off will be the more than 26.8 million passengers traveling during the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday travel period. Remember, when you travel, your Tricare coverage goes with you. But the rules for getting care vary based on your sponsor status, your location, and your health plan. Your Tricare health plan has slight differences when you’re traveling out of the country.
“While no one likes to imagine getting sick or injured while traveling, it’s a possibility,” said Danielle McCammon, health care analyst for the Tricare Overseas Program (TOP) Office at the Defense Health Agency. “Before you head overseas, you should be familiar with the rules of your Tricare health plan in the event you need care when overseas.”
If you intend to travel overseas this holiday season, follow these tips.
If you reasonably think that you have an emergency, you should go to the nearest emergency care facility, or call the Medical Assistance number for the area where you are to coordinate emergency care. For non-emergency care, or to find a provider when traveling, you can call the TOP Regional Call Center for your area. You may also call the local Medical Assistance number for help. When overseas, keep these additional points in mind:
If you need urgent care overseas, you can get it from any civilian provider. But you should follow the rules for getting urgent care overseas based on your health plan.
When you get care overseas, you may need to pay up front for services and file a claim to get money back.
Keep all receipts and file claims with the TOP claims processor, not with your regional contractor in the U.S. If you’re enrolled in the US Family Health Plan or Continued Health Care Benefit Program, you should file claims with your contractor. It doesn’t matter where you received care.
If you’re admitted to a hospital, call the TOP Regional Call Center before leaving the facility, preferably within 24 hours or on the next business day. This will help in the event that you need to coordinate authorization, continued care, and payment.
If you’re an active duty service member (ADSM) and admitted to a hospital, call your primary care manager or the TOP Regional Call Center. ADSMs traveling overseas must seek all non-emergency care at military hospitals or clinics when possible.
If you need to fill a prescription overseas, you should go to a military pharmacy if you can. In some cases, overseas retail pharmacies may be your only option. With an overseas retail pharmacy, you may have to pay for your medications up front and file claims to get money back on covered drugs.
Tricare covers air evacuations to the closest safe location that can provide the required care when medically necessary and appropriate. Remember that your costs for covered air evacuation services are based on your health plan. This means that you may be required to pay for air evacuation up front and file a claim to get money back (minus any cost-shares). If you have questions about air evacuation services and if it’s covered, you should call the overseas contractor before you’re transported. You may want to purchase travel insurance for additional overseas coverage during your trip.
“You should get all of your routine and specialty care before you leave for your trip,” said McCammon. “Otherwise, your care may not be authorized when you’re on your trip.”
A few weeks before you depart, prepare by following these tips:
Check your information in Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS) and update it, if needed. Being able to use Tricare depends on you keeping your information up to date in DEERS.
Get prescriptions filled or refilled if you don’t have enough medication to cover your trip.
Pack or program phone numbers in your phone. You can select a country on the Tricare overseas website to view contact information. You can also download the Tricare contact wallet card for key overseas Tricare numbers. If you’re traveling to a country with an established military hospital or clinic, you can contact the Military Health System Nurse Advice Line 24/7 for non-emergency health care advice.
If you’re planning to take off this travel season, remember these key points. And refer to your health plan’s rules for getting care when traveling. Take care of your health this holiday season, especially during your overseas travel.