Thinking about switching between Tricare Prime and Tricare Select? You’ll have to wait until next November to do it, unless you have some sort of qualifying life event, such as the birth of a baby, a move to a new duty station, marriage or retirement.

That’s a new rule. Until now, beneficiaries could switch from Tricare Prime to Tricare Standard (now Tricare Select) at any time during the year, but they couldn’t switch back to Prime for 12 months. During the 2018 transition period as military health care reforms went into effect, beneficiaries had the option of switching back and forth between plans as they wanted, to determine what best fit their needs.

No more. The deadline for switching plans for 2019 was Dec. 31. DoD health officials began the practice of limiting enrollment periods in order to sync them with the way the commercial sector operates. By adhering to the single open season and qualifying life events, health officials can also be more proactive in anticipating the needs of their patients, they said. They’ll have fairly stable information about how many patients are seeking care at each military medical facility, and their needs.

In addition, service members who are retiring now must re-enroll within 90 days of retirement in order to keep Tricare with no break in coverage.

In the wake of some problems in 2018, defense health officials are also closely monitoring the performance of the two U.S. Tricare contractors and have issued several corrective action plans. Among other things, families have had trouble finding area doctors and other medical providers who are in the Tricare network.

Another big change that took effect on Jan. 1 is the demise of the Tricare Retiree Dental Program. The program ended Dec. 31.

It has been replaced by the Federal Employees Dental and Vision Insurance Program. But enrollment is not automatic — military retirees must visit the site to actively choose their FEDVIP dental plan among at least 10 choices available. The original deadline was Dec. 10, but the Office of Personnel Management has implemented a “belated enrollment phase” for military retirees, reportedly through sometime in March.

As of mid-December, more than 639,000 military retirees had enrolled in a FEDVIP dental plan.

Most active-duty family members, retirees and reservists and their family members are now eligible for the FEDVIP vision benefit that provides extra coverage beyond what they’re getting under Tricare plans. As of mid-December, eligible Tricare beneficiaries had enrolled in 300,000 FEDVIP vision plans. That deadline was originally Dec. 10, but has also been extended to sometime in March. Visit

Karen has covered military families, quality of life and consumer issues for Military Times for more than 30 years, and is co-author of a chapter on media coverage of military families in the book "A Battle Plan for Supporting Military Families." She previously worked for newspapers in Guam, Norfolk, Jacksonville, Fla., and Athens, Ga.

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