Since moving to the Philippines in 2013, as a beneficiary of TriCare Medical Insurance (U.S. Military AD and retired, and their dependents), I have never used TriCare to pay for any medical services received. Since arriving in the Philippines, I have poured over many articles, posts, instructions, and the TriCare site itself, attempting to make sense out of a most convoluted system, and with sometimes conflicting information. Here it is nearly 6 years later, and I still do not fully understand how it all works. It hasn’t helped that the system constantly undergoes changes which makes it even harder to keep abreast of the benefits.
While my wife and I have used medical services sporadically in the Philippines, we have found it to be very affordable and we have simply paid for these services out of pocket. Because healthcare costs are so low (basic services anyway) in the Philippines, filing TriCare claims for such nominal amounts seemed like it would be more like an exercise in futility (aka, a pain in the ass) than it was actually worth. A good example would be going into the emergency room at our local hospital to have a blood pressure check… for P20, or about .40¢ (USD).
Now, if we ever experienced anything that was considered “major” medical, then we would definitely look to TriCare as our goto resource to cover our healthcare costs. But, the problem still remains… how does it all work, how is it applied, and what are the correct procedures that need to be followed.
Just recently, I was introduced to a newly established facebook page created by Mr. John Letaw that is dedicated towards bettering the understanding of the TriCare Overseas Program (TOP) Select. This is an unofficial page designed to share information about TOP-Select and is designed to keep Active Duty Service Members, Active Duty Family Members, and other eligible beneficiaries in geographical areas and waters outside of the U.S. informed.
This site is intended to be used for supplemental and clarifying information, tips, tricks, advice, and questions about using one’s TOP benefits overseas. Hopefully, it can provide additional support to many who find the system confusing and/or hard to use. (Link to facebook page is at the end of this post.)
Below is the introduction by the site administrator taken from the actual facebook page:
“Hi everyone. I would like to introduce myself as the site creator. I am retired Navy, and just recently retired from my 2nd career as a defense contractor and (for 2 years) as a govt employee at USPACOM in Hawaii.”
“My wife challenged me to retire early, so I did the math and decided the only way was to rent out our home in Hawaii & leave the islands for a while. We can return once social security kicks in. So, we sold all our furniture & cars & stuff, and last April went to Japan as missionaries running a retreat camp way up in the mountains outside of Tokyo.”
“Now we are on a 3-month break in Thailand, and next month we will return to Japan for a full year, to run a different retreat camp at Lake Yamanaka near Mt. Fuji. When that is done, we’ll either return to Thailand (my wife is Thai), or go back to our home in Hawaii. We have a young daughter who is growing up with a lot of international exposure.”
“Being up in the mountains like that, we are not near any military base (except Camp Fuji, which is quite small). Considered “remote”, Tricare Overseas lets us visit any doctor of our choosing. There is no PCM, no premiums, and no referrals needed. Our only medical expenses last year were flu shots plus a sprained wrist after cutting too many trees. I did not even submit Tricare claims, but I might because I’m still in the 12-month window to submit.”
“Before going overseas, I called the Tricare people and got lots of bad (wrong) advice from them by phone. In January 2018, the programs were restructured, and their teams were not well-trained around that time. Maybe they are better now. Their website is pretty bad, and even on a single page you find conflicting information. I started searching FB for member pages like this, and there weren’t any. The only FB presence is the “official” Tricare site which is nothing but one big advertisement. They do not even let you post questions or have discussions. So I started this page with the hope that we can start to educate one another, share our frustrations and our knowledge, and hopefully we can come to understand it better.”
“From those who answered the membership questions, it seems like about 1/2 of you are retirees who live in the States and want to know about Tricare when you travel abroad. About 1/4 are active military based overseas. About 5% are living in Philippines which has special rules of its own. The rest are like me: Retirees living abroad in a non-SOFA status, or on extended travel (several months to several years; one of our members is in the midst of a 7-year quest to visit every country on the planet.)”
“It is our goal to provide as much information as possible; please start with my pinned post which has a lot of useful Tricare links. Please PM me with other links so I can add them to the list. I am not the walking, talking expert on Tricare, but I’ve learned a lot since opening this page and I would love to become the expert, if such a thing is possible.”
“Looking forward to sharing the Great Adventure with you. If anyone is interested, I can share more of the story of how I retired early, uprooted my family from our suburban Hawaii life, and shifted to a life overseas. The transition was complex & challenging, but now we reap the rewards of living overseas very affordably, and we have a house to return to one day in the future. Mahalo & God bless.”
If you are someone who is TriCare eligible and living overseas, or are contemplating retirement overseas in the future, then hopefully this site can assist you in understanding everything TriCare. Of course, the official site for TOP information will always be the TriCare Overseas Program website, which is not to be confused with the regular TriCare website. Here is the link to the aforementioned facebook page that might help make sense of it all.
Tricare for Life (you MUST sign up by age 65 to remain eligible):
How to find a provider overseas:
Tricare Open Season (when you can change enrollment):
How to seek care when traveling in the U.S. and abroad:
Seeking care while visiting the U.S. if you live abroad:
Vision & dental care for retirees:
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