Q. Why doesn't Tricare have insurance cards? It would be far simpler than showing a military ID card to hospitals and providers, many of whom have no idea what Tricare is. I used Tricare Standard once as a second payer and had no idea what address to give them or if I had to give them a number from my card.

A. The military ID card doubles as a health insurance card. On the back is the Tricare beneficiary's benefits number and confirmation that the holder has access to military treatment facilities and civilian health care if the word "YES" appears under both the words "Medical" and "Civilian."

Tricare officials say printing separate cards for a population that moves often and transfers between plan options and Tricare regions would present a complex challenge for the Defense Department, not to mention the cost of printing and distribution.

Beneficiaries can download and print a wallet card from milConnect that contains their name and service status and also has important health program phone numbers, such as the toll-free Tricare number and pharmacy hotline. The card also includes spaces to write a primary physician's name and phone number. The wallet card can be presented to a provider along with a Defense Department ID card but it does not serve as proof of eligibility.

The Tricare For Life program, which serves as a second payer to Medicare, does not have eligibility cards.

Write to Tricare Help, Times News Service, 6883 Commercial Drive, Springfield, VA 22159; or tricarehelp@militarytimes.com. In email, include the word "Tricare" in the subject line and do not attach files. 

Patricia Kime is a senior writer covering military and veterans health care, medicine and personnel issues.

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