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Tricare Prime

Choosing the right TRICARE Plan is a difficult and daunting task. The following information will explain the key factors you need to know to choose the best program for your family. These factors include:

Primary Care Manager
The Point of Service Option
Prime Pros and Cons
TRICARE Cost Comparison
Helpful Hints
TRICARE Prime Enrollment Forms

Note: According to TRICARE all active duty servicemembers are eligible in TRICARE Prime. However they must fill out an enrollment form and submit it to the regional contractor by either filling out the enrollment form. In addition servicemembers receive most of their care from military medical personnel. *Note: These forms can be found in the Important Forms Section.

For active duty families, there is no enrollment fee for TRICARE Prime, however they must complete an enrollment form to select Prime as their coverage plan.

With TRICARE Prime, most health care will come from a military treatment facility (MTF), along with the TRICARE contracted Civilian Medical Providers called Preferred Provider Network (PPN).

Primary Care Manager
Your Primary Care Manager (or team of providers) will see you first for your health care needs. The Primary Care Manager:

Provides and/or coordinates your care
Maintains your health records
Refers you to specialists, if necessary (To be covered, specialty care must be arranged and approved by your Primary Care Manager)
Care is usually provided in a military treatment facility, but civilian clinics may be used in some cases.

TIP: TRICARE Prime members should always seek the advice of their Primary Care Manager (or local MTF) before seeking medical attention from any specialists or other medical facilities.

Point of Service (POS) Option
The POS Option under TRICARE Prime allows enrollees the freedom to seek and receive non-emergency health care services from any TRICARE authorized civilian provider, in or out of the TRICARE network, without requesting a referral from their Primary Care Manager (PCM) or the Health Care Finder (HCF). When Prime enrollees choose to use the POS option, all requirements applicable to TRICARE Standard apply except the requirement for a Nonavailability Statement(NAS).

However POS claims are subject to outpatient deductibles ($300 individual and $600 family), 50% cost-shares for outpatient and inpatient claims, and excess charges up 15% over the allowed amount. The 50% cost-share continues to be applied even after the Enrollment Year catastrophic cap has been met.

TRICARE Prime – Advantages
No enrollment fee for active duty and families
Small fee per visit to civilian providers, and no fee for active duty members
No balance billing

Guaranteed appointments (access standards)
Primary care manager supervises and coordinates care
Away-from-home emergency coverage
Point-of-Service option
Reduced catastrophic cap for retirees ($7,500 now decreased to $3,000)

TRICARE Prime – Disadvantages
Enrollment fee for retirees and their families
Provider choice limited
Specialty care by referral only
Not universally available

TRICARE Prime Summary
Guaranteed access to timely medical care
Priority for care at military hospitals and clinics
Primary Care Manager provides and guides health care delivery
Lowest cost for treatment among three options
Requires enrollment for one year
Retirees pay enrollment fee
Very expensive to receive care outside TRICARE Prime (Point-of-Service Option)
Not available everywhere

Helpful Hints:
Sponsors should ensure their family members have up-to-date uniformed services identification cards, and that they are properly enrolled in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS).* Note: This form can be found in the Important Forms Section.

Beneficiaries may find that the closest MTF is outside their area. In that case they will be enrolled in TRICARE Prime Remote.

Beneficiaries may be required to file their own claims when using TRICARE Standard.

Beneficiaries may find more information about filing claims and download claims forms on the TRICARE Website.

Although TRICARE Standard beneficiaries have a lower priority for access to care in MTFs than TRICARE Prime enrollees, Standard beneficiaries may attempt to receive their care from an MTF. This will save money and paperwork.

About the author: Stacey is an Army wife of a soldier who joined in 2003. He has since been medically retired but she continues to provide information to Army wives and families to make their adjustment to the Army lifestyle easier. Connect with Stacey: Facebook Twitter Pinterest

{ 5 comments… add one }
  • Kelli July 5, 2011, 5:18 pm

    I’m pretty new to this Army thing and I was wondering does medical insurance come out of my husband’s pay each month? He is in basic training and has received 3 paychecks so far and I never see anything deducted for Tricare Prime (which is what we are enrolled in). Thanks for any help!

  • Megan August 1, 2012, 5:19 pm

    My husband and I (and our two babies) are on Tricare Prime. When I went to the Dr. Office that we were assigned to I was informed that im as good as uninsured, that they’ll pay for one doctors visit a year, but no testing, no perscriptions ect. (the tricare office said that). My husband was in AIT at the time, and since i have been avoiding going to the doctor in fear that we would have to pay a ton of money. Is this true??? So far i’ve been lied to multipul times just because im not the soldier. I’ve recieved a Tricare prime handbook but it’s so confusing i cant understand most of it….

    • Stacey August 3, 2012, 6:33 am

      This isn’t how Tricare works at all. You will be assigned to a primary care manager for Prime and you can see that doctor as fifteen as you need. You can’t just see whomever you want as your primary has to give you referrals to specialists, etc but I’ve never been turned down when I asked for one.

  • alchi January 24, 2013, 5:35 pm


    My husband is shipping in April 1st of this year. We recently found out that I am 4-weeks pregnant. I am not even insured. This is our first baby and I am freaking out already. My question is that when he goes to his basic training I will be three months+. Will I be insured?? Because I was trying to get insurance and almost none would insure after the conception. What should I do?? I would really appreciate any answers you have.

    • Stacey February 12, 2013, 7:17 pm

      I’m fairly certain it will be covered. You can call Tricare and ask 1-800-444-5445.

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