Transitional Tricare Coverage Expanded for Guard, Reserve

Members of the National Guard load pick-ups with food and boxes of water. (National Guard/Eduardo Martinez)
Members of the National Guard load pick-ups with food and boxes of water. (National Guard/Eduardo Martinez)

Guardsmen and reservists coming off more than 30 days of activation now have 180 days of transitional Tricare coverage, regardless of what kind of federal orders they are under.

In the past, Guard troops and their families could only access that free 180 days of Tricare coverage if they were activated for more than 30 days in support of a "contingency operation." Typically, "contingency operations" refer only to war efforts.

But Congress approved in the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) a change that expands transitional Tricare Prime or Select coverage to those who were activated for other overseas or stateside federal missions in support of combatant commands. In the past, those types of activations did not carry benefits.

Like most changes to Tricare, there is a significant lag between when the law is signed and when the change makes it into policy. Although the law was signed late last year, Tricare officials updated their policy manual to reflect the new rule Aug. 20.

When not activated, Guardsmen and reservists qualify for Tricare Reserve Select, a purchased care option. While coverage is similar to that of Tricare Select, Tricare Reserve Select carries a monthly premium on top of deductibles and out-of-pocket costs for services.

Guardsmen serving as dual-status technicians, however, do not qualify for Tricare. Technicians fill traditional drilling Guard rolls while also working as federal civilian employees in their Guard units. A federal law blocks them from qualifying for Tricare. Legislation to fix the issue has been shelved repeatedly over cost concerns.

This story was updated September 24 to correct the types of activations for which benefits are now available.

-- Amy Bushatz can be reached at

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