Transitioning to Civilian Healthcare plans from military - was this scary to anyone else?

Growing up as an Army brat and litterally turning in one ID card for another as an Air Force wife, I had no experience at all with healthcare plans. When we seperated, TRICARE was just implementing their plan for active duty personnel but I truly felt unprepared to use or understand how civilian healthcare plans worked when I became...(gulp) a civilian. Does this gap still exist when it comes to the seperation process? I was horrified when my 15 month old got pnuemonia and none of the doctors I called would take him as a new patient. I was terrified of the bill I might receive if I went to an emergency room. It took about 30 phone calls to find the person who is still my pediatricion today (12 yrs later and 2 more kiddos). I couldn't remember a time in my 24 years that I or my family had ever NOT been able to be seen by a doctor on base with just my military ID. It would have been nice to get some education on the process to locate a doctor, how deductibles work, when to use urgent care clinics vs ER at one of those briefings I attended before our seperation.


ExAFwifeArmyBrat - I think all branches invite spouses to the Transition Assistance classes. When I worked at Fleet and Family (Navy), the spouses usually attended the last two days when they discussed Tri-Care. I know it can be confusing. It's a great reminder to us all when it's time to separate or retire to find out what classes are available to explain benefits and/or options. Thanks for finding our new community!
Dear ExAFwifeArmyBrat: I actually just happen to work in healthcare, but I'm no expert on healthcare plans. But, having had to work through lots of these types of issues personally and professionally, here are a few thoughts that might help. My guess is that there is still a gap during the military separation process. With all the things to take care of during transition, the gap comes as no surprise. This gap probably exists for many reasons: * You and other military folks (self included) had a high degree of familiarity with the military medical system. In other words, since you were part of a closed medical system, you had no reason to seek medical treatment elsewhere (in most cases). My guess is that the military system has limited information available since there's rarely a reason for military medicine and civilian medicine to interact. And, since there are literally thousands of healthcare plans out there, this would be tough to cover all the in's & out's during the transition process. * Private Insurance healthcare plans change often. Lots of these changes (coverage decisions) happen at the beginning of the year since insurance companies have had time to review and evaluate coverage and update their policies. Something that an insurance company covered in 2010 may not be covered in 2011, for example. * Most Civilian Employers allow Employees to update their policies at least once during the year. Sometimes this is referred to as the Open Enrollment Period and happens specific times during the year.(check your individual plan or for more details) * Civilian Employers may elect to change the healthcare plans in order to offer better benefits and reduce deductibles, etc. This usually happens in smaller companies, but could happen in larger companies when they feel the need to change insurance companies. The military probably knows little about those aspects of Civilian Healthcare. The changes come often and quickly, so even many civilians have trouble keeping up with the changes! Just a couple of tips: * When retiring or otherwise making the military-to-civilian career transition, ask the Human Resources (HR) Department of your next Employer to send you the health plan information. HR is usually responsible for these questions. * If Retiring, ask Friends or Relatives living in the area you plan to live in to find out what their experiences with healthcare insurance has been. * Ask existing Employees with similar family structures what they chose for their healthcare plan. The needs for Single Employees, Employee & Family, Employee & Spouse, or Families with Children with Disabilities vary. * If you have college-aged children, see if their college or university offers a low-cost health insurance plan. (Some of these cost only $350 for the entire year and cover a sufficient amount of medical needs) * Most healthcare plans have a website that includes a "Search for Doctor" section. You can quickly find a Doctor by name to see if they are a participating Provider in any specific healthcare plan. (This will save you time on all those phone calls searching for a Doctor!) * Some, but not all Insurance Cards show the amount of coverage you have for things such as; ER visits, pharmacy/prescription coverage, co-pays, etc. If not on the actual insurance card, this information should be available on the plan's website, brochure, or HR Department. * Know when your military benefits begin and end. Ask lots of questions during separation as to how the military side of health insurance works. Time and plan your civilian health insurance decisions based on this information. * When choosing a Doctor, check the internet for websites that rate Doctors and Hospitals. There's lots of information out there, but be sure to ask around since anyone can post information about a Doctor these days. Also, the State Medical Board in your state is the official licensing agency for medicine. They're role is to protect the health of people like you and me. Official documents, medical license information, and any adverse reports can be found here. I hope all this helps! It is definitely tough to navigate the healthcare insurance jungle! Regards, Chazz Pratt
I'm a former AF brat who separated from the AF not too long ago after 10 years on active duty. My wife is also a former AF brat who worked for a few years in private industry after college. The transition class (TAPS) I took only included health care information for those retiring and still eligible for TRICARE. I transitioned to a federal civilian position and my wife and I had to quickly figure out the myriad of options for health insurance before the new employee enrollment period of 30 days ended. Thinking back, I should have talked to the federal civilians I worked with about their health care options and what they chose while I was still active duty. I worked in a career field with plenty of civilians, but even those who are surrounded by moslty military can still seek out federal employees who aren't retired military or military dependents. There's also plenty of information on private health care on the OPM website that would be helpful even for those who end up working in the private sector.
All civilian healthcare plans are somewhat challenging compared to the military healthcare. Why? Because in the military all you do is go to the clinic, hospital, show your ID and it gets taken care of. Not true as a civilian! Whether you are starting out in the civilian world or transitioning from military to civilian, when it comes to healthcare, YOU have to understand and manage it. So, it becomes like buying a house for the first time, or traveling overseas for the first time, or doing your taxes for the first time...any somewhat complex activity requires you to learn what you need to know..find out all the nuances...ask others for how they did it...and questioning everyone before you do anything (the Doctor, the administrator at the desk, the health insurance provider, etc.). Otherwise, like your taxes...someone will let you know if you got it wrong and then you will pay....and "I didn't know" won't be an acceptable excuse.