Military families can now check to see whether they’ll be able to keep their current doctors and other health care providers after the change in Tricare contractors on Jan. 1.

New 2018 network provider directories for Tricare East and for Tricare West are up and running. As of Jan. 1, Tricare in the U.S. will shrink from three regions to two, as Tricare North and Tricare South combine to become Tricare East.

The contractor for Tricare East will be Humana Military, which currently has the contract for Tricare South. The geographic area of Tricare West won’t change, but the contractor will: Health Net Federal Services takes over as of Jan. 1.

These moves have their pros and cons, family advocates say. One positive: Fewer regions could mean less of a chance you’ll have to switch regions when you make a permanent change-of-station move.

On the other hand, past changes in Tricare contractors have meant changes in health care providers. That’s why families should check the new directory for their region to make sure their provider is still in the network.

If you choose a health care provider that is not in the Tricare network, you may incur higher out-of-pocket costs.

If an ongoing treatment required pre-approval, families should find out whether the new contractor accepts that authorization from the previous contractor.

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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