Dear Marci,

I am retired from the military and am turning 65 soon. I believe I must enroll in Medicare, even though I have TRICARE benefits. How does TRICARE for Life work with Medicare?

-Jaime (Salt Lake City, UT)

Dear Jaime,

TRICARE is a health insurance program provided by the federal government to active duty and retired military personnel and their family members. There are many different TRICARE programs. TRICARE for Life (TFL) is a program for Medicare-eligible military retirees and their dependents.

TFL acts as a supplement to Medicare. This means that TFL typically covers your Medicare cost-sharing (deductibles, coinsurances, and copayments). TFL may also pay when services are not covered by Medicare or when you have used up your Medicare benefits.

If you are eligible for premium-free Part A, you should sign up for Medicare and enroll in Medicare Part B to continue receiving TRICARE benefits when you are no longer an active duty service member or covered by an active duty service member. After enrolling in Medicare, you should automatically receive your TRICARE benefits through TRICARE for Life. If you delay Part B enrollment, you may face late enrollment penalties and gaps in coverage.

TFL also offers a pharmacy program that provides creditable drug coverage. You may choose to delay Part D enrollment without penalty and continue using TFL’s pharmacy program.

Remember, there are many different TRICARE programs. If you are an active duty service member (ADSM) or active duty family member (ADFM), you may receive your health benefits through a different TRICARE insurance program (such as TRICARE Standard or Prime). You typically can delay Part B enrollment if you are an ADSM or ADFM and enroll in Medicare when you are no longer active duty using the Part B Special Enrollment Period (SEP).

If you need assistance with TRICARE for Life or a different TRICARE program, visit TRICARE’s website for more information and contact information.

Thank you for your service, and congratulations on retirement.


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