A proposal to allow adult children to remain covered under their parents’ Tricare plan until age 26 — without having to pay an extra premium for a separate Tricare plan — has been introduced in Congress.

It’s a matter of equity, said Rep. Elaine Luria, D-Va., during a Thursday call with reporters.

“In the military family, those using Tricare don’t have the same ability to keep their children on their health care plan until age 26,” unlike other health care plans as required by the Affordable Care Act, she said.

Luria and Rep. Michael Waltz, R-Fla., introduced the proposed legislation Jan. 25.

More than 37,000 unmarried, adult children of military sponsors were enrolled in either the Tricare Young Adult Prime or Select programs as of a year ago, according to the Defense Department.

The bill, titled, “Health Care Fairness for Military Families Act of 2021,” would eliminate the requirement to pay a separate premium for a young adult. That would save some families $459 a month. As of Jan. 1, monthly premiums increased by 22 percent, to $459 for those in Tricare Young Adult Prime; and by 12 percent, to $257, for those in Tricare Young Adult Select.

Currently, dependent children can remain on their parent’s Tricare plan until age 21, or until age 23 if the child is enrolled in a full course of study, and the sponsor is still providing more than half of their financial support. At age 23, the child may qualify to purchase Tricare Young Adult.

Walz said one estimate is that the proposal would cost the government about $125 million a year, but cost estimates are part of the process of considering the proposal. He said part of the cost estimate will be looking at the retention benefits of the proposal, and believes the cost will be offset by those benefits.

“I put it in the ‘right thing to do’ category,” he said.

Often, family benefits are a critical factor in troops’ decisions about whether to stay in the military, he said. “We want to impact that good health care…. Something that’s in line with what we’re seeing now across the board in the private sector.”

The same proposal was introduced last year, but didn’t make it into law. Luria said it’s hard to say what the chances are this year that it will be successful, but noted that COVID-19 has highlighted the importance of health care.

“Persistence wins,” Waltz said. “We’ll just keep pushing for this one.”

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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