By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May 1, 2012 – Beginning this month, some National Guard and reserve members will need to pay dental premiums directly rather than through payroll deduction, a senior official of the TRICARE military health plan said today.
A change to the TRICARE Dental Program means that payroll deduction for premiums is not currently available to about 8,000 reserve-component troops who are on orders to active duty for more than 30 days, Army Brig. Gen. W. Bryan Gamble, deputy director of TRICARE Management Activity, told American Forces Press Service.
Gamble said affected beneficiaries have been identified and will not lose coverage. They will receive direct paper bills, and should make their premium payments by check, electronic funds transfer or credit card until the payroll deduction option becomes available, he said.
“Our priority is to ensure a smooth and effective transition on behalf of the … enrollees,” the general said.
Gamble said Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, known as MetLife, today became the new contractor for the TRICARE Dental Program. The program provides dental benefits for more than 2 million TRICARE beneficiaries worldwide.
Defense finance officials, TRICARE Management Activity representatives and MetLife staffers are working out a long-term solution to the payroll deduction issue, he added, and MetLife will keep affected beneficiaries informed.
Service members who think they may be affected should check their leave and earnings statements, and contact MetLife at 855-638-8371 if they do not see a premium payment, he said.
MetLife offers slightly lower premiums and more extensive benefits than were previously available in the program, Gamble said, including:
— An increase in the annual maximum to $1,300;
— An increase in the lifetime orthodontic maximum to $1,750;
— Additional $1,200 maximum per year for services related to accidents or injuries,
— No cost shares for scaling and root planning for diabetics; and
— Coverage of an additional cleaning during pregnancy.
The program covers military family members and reserve-component service members, Gamble said. He noted that active-duty service members and activated National Guard and reserve members are not eligible for the program — though their family members are — because they receive military dental services at no charge.
“TRICARE began its partnership with MetLife today and, at 8:03 a.m., the first dental claim was paid under the new TRICARE Dental Program contract,” the general said.
“The beneficiary went to an in-network dentist, [and] the claim was reviewed and processed correctly,” he added. “This is just the first claim, but we expect many more as TRICARE beneficiaries take advantage of their enhanced dental benefits.”