TRICARE for College Military Dependents

Updated: March 17, 2021
In this Article

    Military families with college-aged dependent children don’t always think about healthcare coverage at first when it’s time to plan for college. Much of the worries have to do with student loans, living arrangements, college schedules, and naturally paying for the experience.

    But healthcare coverage is an important college prep topic, too. Some colleges may require health insurance through the school’s plan or proof that a potential student is already covered. Other schools may not have the same requirements. Either way, military dependents about to enter higher education need to know what their options are for coverage while attending school.

    College Health Care Insurance for Students Not Enrolled in TRICARE

    Those not enrolled in TRICARE may have the option to get healthcare coverage through the school. This may or may not be viewed as a mandatory fee depending on the school, state laws, and other factors. Will a student’s financial aid, in any form, be applicable to healthcare coverage through a university or college?

    If it is a mandatory fee, it may be possible to apply military college tuition benefits toward such coverage. Students will need to work with their admissions office or office of veteran services to determine what is possible at that financial institution. Some state-level military college benefits may not cover such fees, while others might.

    College Health Insurance for Students with TRICARE

    TRICARE Dependents

    Photo by Senior Airman Cierra Presentado
    319th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

    Dependent military children who are college-age may be eligible to continue TRICARE coverage until age 23 or graduation, whichever happens first. The following requirements apply in such cases. It is very important to note the rule below that states the student must be registered in DEERS and have their student status reflected there.

    That can raise important issues for dependents with military parents who are deployed, TDY, or otherwise unable to be physically present to add or update DEERS entries. You may be required to have the military member physically present. Alternatively, you can use a power of attorney that specifically permits the dependent or other representative to manage dependent ID services and DEERS where required.

    TRICARE requirements for students to retain coverage until age 23 or graduation include the following:

    • The “student status” must be reflected in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS). You need to register in DEERS to get TRICARE.
    • Students need a letter from the registrar’s office to act as proof of full-time enrollment in an accredited college in pursuit of an Associate’s Degree or higher.
    • The sponsor must show they provide more than half of the student’s financial support.
    • This information must be provided at an ID card issuing facility at a military base or other installation with DEERS services.

    TRICARE Coverage for Adopted Children and Stepchildren

    The above will apply for adopted children and stepchildren, but there are additional rules to be aware of. According to the TRICARE official site, the following will apply:

    • Step-children are eligible for TRICARE as long as the parent of the child and sponsor remain legally married.
    • If the marriage ends in divorce, the step-children lose eligibility on the date the divorce decree is final.
    • If the sponsor adopts his or her step-children, TRICARE coverage remains for the adopted children even if the marriage ends in divorce.

    Type of TRICARE Coverage Available for College Age Dependents

    The type of TRICARE coverage will depend on the location of the college. TRICARE Prime is available in Prime Service Areas which are the designated locations within the United States. Students who go to school outside one of these Prime areas will be covered under TRICARE Select.

    It’s easy to overlook the fact that TRICARE coverage areas were set in and around military bases affected by Base Realignment and Closure Commission sites. That means that bases which have closed or realigned may have created a Prime coverage area once upon a time.

    Such areas are still in effect in many cases. Just because the base is closed does not mean TRICARE coverage in the area has changed. Ask your TRICARE provider for more information.

    In all cases, TRICARE will need to be updated as to the student’s status, not just DEERS. Military parents will need to update both DEERS and contact a TRICARE representative to alert them to the coverage needed and provide documentation.

    TRICARE Coverage for College-Age Military Dependents Attending A Military Service Academy

    A student enrolled in a military service academy will enroll in TRICARE PRIME. This applies to those attending the following institutions:

    • S. Military Academy at West Point
    • S. Naval Academy at Annapolis
    • S. Air Force Academy at Colorado Springs
    • S. Coast Guard Academy at New London
    • S. Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point

    This applies to service academies ONLY and NOT to Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) programs at other colleges.

    Those who attend a service academy, but live far from it may wish to look at supplemental coverage for time spent at home when not attending the academy. Referrals may be required for certain types of out-of-network urgent care. Routine care is not covered outside a military hospital or clinic while the student is out-of-area.

    Other Important Considerations

    Student healthcare coverage provided through a mandatory coverage program at a given college must be reported to TRICARE. This is since TRICARE pays second after other health insurance.

    TRICARE provides minimum essential coverage that is required under the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. Students covered under TRICARE have an option to purchase TRICARE past the age of 23 up to age 26 via a program called TRICARE Young Adult.

    Other coverage is available via something known as the Continued Health Care Benefit Program, (CHCBP) which is a premium-based plan offering the following:

    • Temporary health coverage for 18-36 months when eligibility for TRICARE is lost.
    • Acts as a bridge between military health benefits and a new civilian health plan.
    • The same coverage as TRICARE Select.
    • Provides minimum essential coverage basic health care coverage required by the Affordable Care Act.
    • CHCBP is available within 60 days of the loss of TRICARE eligibility.
    Written by Team