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Tricare officials expanded benefits and customer service in 2009

12/29/2009 - FALLS CHURCH, Va. (AFNS) -- The past year has been a busy one for Tricare officials with the introduction of a new Web-based counseling program and major enhancements to several other Tricare benefits.

Introduced Aug. 1, the Tricare Assistance Program uses today's constantly evolving Web-based technologies to bring short-term professional counseling assistance closer to the people who often need it most: service members and veterans recently returned from overseas and their families who have persevered through the deployment.

The assistance program is available in the United States to active duty service members, those eligible for the Transition Assistance Management Program and for members enrolled in Tricare Reserve Select. It also is available to their spouses, no matter their age, and other eligible family members 18 years of age or older.

From the comfort of their homes, or anywhere else, beneficiaries with a computer, Webcam and the associated software can speak "face-to-face" with a licensed counselor over the Internet at any time of the day or night. Eligible beneficiaries can get more information about TRIAP and other behavioral health resources at www.tricare.mil/mentalhealth.

Tricare officials have increased the amount that is paid for certain Extended Care Health Option benefits. ECHO assists eligible family members of active duty sponsors who are diagnosed with moderate or severe mental retardation, a serious physical disability or an extraordinary physical or psychological condition.

The total Tricare cost-share for training, rehabilitation, special education and assistive technology devices was increased to $36,000 per fiscal year. This covers institutional care in private, nonprofit, public and state institutions and facilities and, if appropriate, transportation to and from such institutions and facilities. To learn more about ECHO, go to www.tricare.mil/echo.

Getting clinical preventive services can help prevent major health problems. In September 2009 Tricare waived all cost shares for Standard beneficiaries for colorectal cancer, breast cancer, cervical cancer and prostate cancer screenings, immunizations and well-child visits for children under 6 years of age.

Also, for all beneficiaries over age 6, when a visit to a health care provider includes one or more of the benefits listed above, the cost share for the visit is waived. Other services provided during the same visit are subject to cost shares and deductibles.

On Aug. 1, Tricare officials launched a new dental program for active duty service members. The Active Duty Dental Program is designed for service members assigned to locations with no access to a military dental facility, and for those referred by their dental treatment facility to the civilian network for specialty care or due to unavailability of timely military dental facility appointments.

For more information about this new dental program, go to www.addp-ucci.com.

Due to positive feedback and cost savings, Tricare's over-the-counter medication demonstration was continued. The demonstration allows Tricare beneficiaries to substitute certain prescription drugs with over-the-counter versions for zero copay.

OTC medications are generally less expensive than their prescription versions, by as much as 400 percent in some cases.

To get the covered OTC allergy medications cetirizine and loratadine, and heartburn medications (proton-pump inhibitors) Prilosec OTC and its generic form omeprazole with no out-of-pocket costs, beneficiaries still need a prescription from their health-care provider specifically for the OTC drug. After submitting the prescription at any Tricare retail network pharmacy or through the Tricare mail-order pharmacy, the prescription for the OTC medication is filled at no cost.

For more information about the Tricare pharmacy program, go to www.tricare.mil/pharmacy.

After a busy year in 2009, Tricare officials are looking forward to an equally productive 2010. Keep an eye on www.tricare.mil/pressroom for news throughout the year and get benefit information direct from the Tricare news service via e-mail by signing up at www.tricare.mil/subscriptions.

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