FALLS CHURCH, Virginia –
It’s a big moment when you say “I do.” It’s also important for your family health coverage. Spouses of service members are eligible for TRICARE coverage. And getting married is a TRICARE Qualifying Life Event, or QLE. So, what does this mean and what steps do you need to take?
“Getting married gives you an opportunity to look at your current health coverage, add a newly eligible family member, or make a change to the existing coverage if you choose,” said Valerie Palmer, management and program analyst with the Policy and Programs Section of the TRICARE Health Plan at the Defense Health Agency. “With TRICARE, you have several excellent plan options to choose from depending on which TRICARE plan best meets your family’s health care needs.”
How is getting married a QLE?
Getting married is one of TRICARE’s QLEs, like giving birth, moving, or retiring. These life changes may mean different health plans are available to you and your family. And they allow you to make eligible enrollment changes outside of TRICARE Open Season.
As outlined in the TRICARE Qualifying Life Events Fact Sheet, you can stay in the same plan, change plans, or enroll in a plan after a QLE. These rules apply to TRICARE Prime and TRICARE Select. If you use TRICARE For Life, marriage would be a QLE for your spouse if they’re under age 65. And keep in mind that premium-based plans (TRICARE Reserve Select, TRICARE Retired Reserve, TRICARE Young Adult, and the Continued Health Care Benefit Program) offer continuous open enrollment throughout the year.
You can read the TRICARE Plans Overview or use the TRICARE Plan Finder to learn about your family’s plan eligibility and options. Remember that different family members may be eligible for different plans.
What actions do I need to take after getting married?
After getting married, your spouse’s options will depend on your military status and where you live. Eligible children may also gain TRICARE coverage.
First, register your new spouse in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS), so they’re eligible to get TRICARE benefits. You must update DEERS before contacting your TRICARE contractor to make any changes to your or your family member’s health care coverage. To add your spouse to DEERS, you’ll need to visit an ID card office. Bring the original or certified copies of the following documents:
- Marriage certificate
- Spouse’s birth certificate
- Spouse’s Social Security card
- Spouse’s photo ID
You may also register eligible children as dependents until age 21 (or up to age 23 if in college) the same way. This includes unmarried biological children, stepchildren, and adopted or court-placed children. At age 21 or 23, they may qualify to purchase TRICARE Young Adult. Bring their documents to your appointment as well:
- Birth certificate
- Social Security card
- Marriage certificate (for stepchild)
Finally, follow the steps to enroll in a plan. You can do this online, by phone, or by mail. If you have questions, call your regional contractor. Remember that the effective date of coverage will be the date of your QLE. In this case, this will be the date of the marriage. Your health plan coverage will continue unless you lose eligibility or disenroll from the plan.
Do QLEs impact other eligibility?
When you gain access to TRICARE health coverage, you gain access to TRICARE pharmacy and vision benefits. The TRICARE Dental Program is offered to family members of active duty service members and National Guard and Reserve members. Some TRICARE beneficiaries can also enroll in dental and vision plans through the Federal Employees Dental and Vision Insurance Program.
How long does a new spouse have to enroll in TRICARE?
You have 90 days from the date of your marriage to change health plans or enroll any new eligible family members if you choose. If you miss this window of opportunity that the marriage QLE provides, you’ll have to wait until open season or another QLE to seek coverage. Once you’re back from your honeymoon, act quickly.
Learn more about your TRICARE health plan options after you get married, and take command of your health with TRICARE.