Military dependents do not necessarily age out of TRICARE when they turn 21. Although regular TRICARE eligibility ends on a dependent's 21st birthday, there is another option. Through the TRICARE Young Adult program, military dependents can maintain their coverage until the age of 26.
How TRICARE Young Adult Works
Military dependents age out of their regular TRICARE coverage when they turn 21. If they’re in college, they can keep their coverage until they turn 23. For many young adults struggling to start a career while paying off student loans, this is not long enough.
According to the Defense Health Agency, TRICARE Young Adult is available to people who meet the following criteria:
- They are between the ages of 21 and 25.
- They are not eligible for employer-sponsored health care.
- They are not eligible for other TRICARE coverage.
- They are unmarried.
- They are the child of a TRICARE-eligible uniformed service sponsor.
TRICARE Young Adult comes in two coverage options: TYA Prime and TYA Select. It includes medical and prescription drug coverage, but it does not include dental benefits.
How much enrollees pay depends on several factors, including whether they enroll in TYA Prime or TYA Select and where they receive their care. The military status of the sponsoring parent also impacts the cost.
Why TRICARE Young Adult Matters
Young adults often go without health insurance. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 13.1 percent of people between ages 19 and 25 lacked health coverage in 2016, compared to 8.8 percent of the general population.
In some cases, this may be because young adults have aged out of their parents’ plan but don’t yet have a job that provides health insurance. Although private health plans are one possibility, they can be expensive, and many young adults may find that they can’t afford the monthly premiums.
At the same time, young adults may feel that they are unlikely to get sick due to their age. They decide to save money by going without health insurance, just keeping their fingers crossed that they won’t need it.
Of course, illness and injury can affect anyone regardless of age, and the cost of medical care can be enormous. One broken bone, one head injury requiring a CT scan, or one stay in the hospital can run thousands of dollars.
According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, non-elderly adults without insurance are twice as likely to have trouble paying medical bills compared to non-elderly adults with insurance, often leading to medical debt. Many people decide to forgo medical care rather than deal with medical bills they can’t afford. In 2016, 20 percent of adults without health coverage went without necessary medical care because of the cost.
Clearly, it is always better to have health coverage – especially if an affordable option is available.
TRICARE Young Adult helps military dependents retain TRICARE coverage for up to five additional years. This keeps young adults protected while having more time to devote to college, internships, travel or other activities before having to worry about securing a job that offers comprehensive health care coverage.
Could TRICARE Young Adult Help You or Your Adult Child?
If you are the parent of a young adult child who is aging out of regular TRICARE, or if you are a military dependent aging out of regular TRICARE, TRICARE Young Adult may be the solution you need to avoid a potentially expensive and dangerous coverage gap.
If you don’t qualify for TRICARE Young Adult, you may be eligible for the Continued Health Care Benefit Program, which provides temporary health care coverage for 18 to 36 months after losing TRICARE eligibility.