A new House plan would extend Tricare coverage for dependents up to age 26 without any premium increases in an effort to help military families deal with the financial effects of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Rep. Elaine Luria, D-Va., who is introducing the legislative proposal later this week, said the issue is one of basic fairness for troops and their loved ones.

“The Affordable Care Act allows young adults to stay on their parents’ health plans until age 26. However, military families do not receive this same benefit under Tricare,” she said in a statement. “During this public health emergency, it is more important than ever to provide our servicemembers and their families with affordable and accessible health care.”

Under current Tricare rules, dependents can be covered under the military health insurance program until age 23 if they are enrolled in college classes and until age 21 if they are not.

About 40,000 dependents are currently enrolled in the Tricare Young Adult Program, which allows military families to keep those children on the health insurance until age 26, but at a cost of several hundred dollars a month.

By switching those individuals to free coverage, some military families could save more than $4,000 a year.

Luria’s plan — dubbed the Health Care Fairness for Military Families Act — would be retroactive until the beginning of this year. Her office did not have an estimate for how much the overall plan would cost.

The issue of health insurance costs has again gained policy traction in recent months as unemployment and medical concerns have risen as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, which has infected nearly 2 million Americans and killed more than 110,000 of them since early March.

In recent months, defense health officials eliminated most patient co-pays and cost shares for telehealth appointments and broadened their assortment of covered services in an attempt to blunt the impact of the pandemic on military families.

No timeline has been announced for when the new Tricare plan may be debated or voted on by congressional committees.

Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.

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