There is a lot to think about for yourself and your family as you prepare to leave the military. The most important of these is health insurance.
It’s an abrupt shift for many exiting service members. That’s because health care is free under TRICARE, the military’s health insurance program for active-duty personnel and their families. “If you become sick or wounded, you go to the doctor on post, and TRICARE covers your health care,” explains Sean Scaturro, USAA Advice Director. “Words like deductible, co-pay, and premium are probably meaningless to you.”
Understanding these phrases as a citizen might make or break your budget. It’s crucial to start transition planning about two years before you retire or split.
How to Consider Post-Military Health Insurance
The cost of insurance can be shocking if you’ve never had to budget for health care. According to Federal Reserve study, 35% of Americans would be unable to cover a $400 unexpected bill without incurring debt.
If this describes you, go ahead and include a health-care line item in your budget. Don’t put off starting your transition until it’s finished, says Scaturro. “As military members prepare to transition into civilian life, I encourage that they start saving for contingencies now, including money to help pay for health care.”
Scaturro remembers a recent trip to his local urgent care center with his son following an ear injury. “My son did not require any gauze, sutures, liquid stitches, or anything else. We spent $300 only to see the doctor “he claims. “If Americans can’t afford an unexpected $400 bill, they’ll struggle to pay their doctor’s office co-pays and health-care deductibles.”
Before you start looking for health insurance, consider the following three questions:
What are my health-care requirements? A single individual in good health, for example, has different needs than a married person with small children. Children typically require more regular medical attention, although a young adult may visit the doctor less frequently. Consider any pre-existing medical issues that may be covered by VA disability.
Which health-care plan am I eligible for? Each health care plan has its own set of standards. Examining all of the choices for which you are eligible allows you to make an informed decision.
Which health-care plan is the most cost-effective? Weigh plan pricing and compare deductibles and upfront fees. Scaturro cautions against making a decision only based on price. Instead, start by assessing your requirements and ensuring that the plan you select provides adequate coverage.