The TRICARE transition to FEDVIP will leave thousands of federal employees behind

Elizabeth Howe
December 06, 2018 - 1:27 pm

Photo courtesy of Dreamstime

For thousands of veterans, the switch from TRICARE to FEDVIP might not be as seamless as it seems — and there's a good chance a lot of veterans aren't even eligible for FEDVIP.  

Out of the 1.8 million military retirees currently enrolled in the TRICARE Retiree Dental Program, only 600,000 have made the mandatory switch over to the Federal Employee Dental and Vision Insurance Program (FEDVIP). The other 95 percent of enrollees have four days left to go online to make the switch. But if you're waiting until the last second to enroll in FEVIP, you might be in for a surprise.

RELATED: 1.2 million military retirees could lose dental coverage — are you one of them?

Current federal employees are finding that they are ineligible for coverage under the FEDVIP program that replaces the TRICARE Retiree Dental Program. 

"I discovered this about a week ago," said retired Army veteran Justin Camp. "I was going through the eligibility program for the retirement insurance and I kept getting an error message saying I already had a BENEFEDS account. That's when I knew there was going to be an issue."

Camp works for the Department of Veterans Affairs and, as a federal employee, already has one insurance policy with FEDVIP. He called BENEFEDS and spoke to three different associates who all told him the same thing. 

"There's this idea that it's double dipping. And I could understand that if I were trying to select the same plan that I have as a VA employee. But they're really mutually exclusive. And the retiree insurance rates are even higher than the identical coverage I would have gotten from the VA."

Camp says they're wrongly likening it to double dipping.

"It's the same as saying that folks who are receiving retirement pay and also working are double dipping. That's the argument that's coming out here. And I can understand why there's tens of thousands of people who have not selected coverage. It's because they can't."

Now, as TRICARE transitions to FEDVIP, any retiree who's also a federal employee will lose his or her insurance policy. And, unfortunately, there isn't currently a plan to resolve the issue. 

“It’s unfortunate that there is not an option for dual coverage but FEDVIP offers multiple plans with comprehensive benefits so members can choose the best option for them, " said Sarah Marbach, business strategy and communications manager of federal plans at Aetna, one of the insurance companies under the FEDVIP umbrella. "The FEDVIP regulations that were put in place at the start of the program in 2006 do not allow for dual coverage.”  

RELATED: Don't be left out. New dental and vision insurance policies for veterans

Marbach says the FEDVIP coverage that will replace the TRICARE Retiree Dental Program is similar to what military retirees receive now.   Camp does not agree. 

"To argue that there's no difference — I would disagree. Carrying two coverages, everyone knows, allows one to pick up the majority of the costs and the second comes in and pays the remainder. I found it shocking that FEDVIP's answer was to drop my employer's coverage."   

Camp also does not believe this could possibly have been just an oversight. 

"To think that there would be such an oversight is hard to believe. The only other thing we can think of is that it was done as a cost savings issue — and FEDVIP knew it. I've read dozens and dozens of articles about this transition plan, and you can probably guess how many have actually mentioned that if you're a current federal employee with FEDVIP you'll be unable to get retiree insurance. Zero mention it." 

Camp is from Illinois and has reached out to Representative Adam Kinzinger and Senator Tammy Duckworth for help. 

"I'd like to think that two veterans themselves — somewhere along the lines they got sold a bill of goods about this being a good option. And I would argue that it certainly is, but it's neglecting a very large pool of individuals. The VA alone employs thousands upon thousands of retirees. It's inherently dishonest when you're creating a plan for folks who are retirees."

RELATED: FEDVIP insurance rates released early

FEDVIP released its rates back in October and started to spread the message that all TRICARE Retiree Dental Program enrollees needed to switch over to FEDVIP. Open enrollment ends in four days, and a lot of veterans are about to find themselves left behind.

"I understand it won't be an easy solution, but there has to be something," Camp said. "Come January 1st, I think we're going to find a lot of people left out in the wind."

Want to get more connected to the great stories and resources Connecting Vets has to offer? Click here and sign up for our weekly newsletter.