Can TRICARE Select be used as a secondary insurance?

TRICARE Select is a health insurance plan available to military families, retirees, and reservists. It provides comprehensive coverage but requires annual enrollment fees and copayments for care. Many wonder if TRICARE Select can act as secondary insurance to supplement other health plans and save on out-of-pocket costs.

The answer is yes – TRICARE Select can be used as a secondary payer to pick up costs not covered by your primary insurance. However, certain rules, limitations, and coordination steps apply.

In this article, we’ll explain how TRICARE Select works as secondary insurance, who can use it as secondary coverage, how double coverage claims get coordinated, and tips for using TRICARE and other insurance together.

What is TRICARE Select?

TRICARE Select is one of several TRICARE plans available to non-active duty beneficiaries, including:

  • Military retirees and their families
  • National Guard/Reserve members and families
  • Survivor families

Key features of TRICARE Select include:

  • Provides comprehensive health benefits
  • Requires annual enrollment fees
  • Charges copayments for services
  • Uses regional networks of providers
  • Doesn’t require referrals for specialty care

TRICARE Select functions similarly to a PPO or HMO plan. You have the flexibility to see any TRICARE-authorized provider but will pay less when using in-network providers.

Who Can Use TRICARE Select as Secondary Insurance?

The categories of beneficiaries below are eligible for TRICARE Select and can use it as secondary insurance:

  • Retired service members and eligible family members
  • National Guard/Reserve members not on active duty and their family members
  • Survivor family members
  • Medal of Honor recipients and eligible family members
  • Qualified former spouses

Retired Service Members – Those who served 20+ years on active duty and retired can enroll in TRICARE Select for themselves and their family. It provides ongoing TRICARE coverage after leaving service.

National Guard/Reserve – Members of the Selected Reserve can purchase TRICARE Select when not activated on duty. It provides coverage between drilling periods.

Survivor Families – Widows/widowers and children of deceased service members retain TRICARE eligibility and can enroll in Select as secondary insurance.

Medal of Honor Recipients – Those awarded the Medal of Honor are granted lifetime TRICARE coverage and can use Select as secondary insurance.

Former Spouses – Divorced spouses of military members may qualify for TRICARE if they meet certain requirements.

Importantly, those using TRICARE for Life or TRICARE Prime can’t use TRICARE Select as additional coverage.

How TRICARE Select Works as Secondary Insurance

When you have TRICARE Select plus another health plan like an employer plan or Medicare, here is how the coverage coordination works:

  • Your primary insurance pays first
  • You pay any applicable deductibles or copays
  • Leftover costs get sent to TRICARE Select
  • TRICARE Select picks up a share of remaining expenses
  • You pay any applicable TRICARE copays

This allows TRICARE Select to fill coverage gaps so you have minimal out-of-pocket expenses. Here’s an example:

Primary Insurance Claim

  • Doctor visit charge: $200
  • Primary insurance covers: $160
  • You pay: $40 copay

TRICARE Select Claim

  • Leftover charge: $40
  • TRICARE Select covers: $30
  • You pay: $10 TRICARE copay

Your primary insurance covered most costs, then TRICARE picked up a portion of what remained. This resulted in the lowest possible copay for you.

Benefits of Using TRICARE Select as Secondary

There are several advantages to using TRICARE Select as secondary insurance:

  • Lower out-of-pocket costs – Copays and deductibles can be expensive with just one insurance plan. Secondary coverage from TRICARE Select helps fill those gaps.

  • Access to additional providers – Your primary insurance may have a limited network. TRICARE Select gives you access to TRICARE’s wide network of providers.

  • Coverage when traveling – TRICARE Select provides nationwide coverage. So you have benefits when traveling outside your primary insurance’s service area.

  • Peace of mind – Having double health coverage gives you assurance that costs will be covered between the two plans.

  • Prescription drug savings – The TRICARE pharmacy benefit may offer lower medication copays than other prescription plans.

How are TRICARE Claims Coordinated?

To receive secondary benefits from TRICARE Select, you must file claims in a specific sequence:

  1. Receive care and file claim first with primary insurer
  2. Pay any deductible or copay required by primary plan
  3. Primary insurer pays their portion of claim costs
  4. Provider submits claim to TRICARE for leftover amount
  5. You pay any applicable TRICARE copays
  6. TRICARE pays its portion and processes claim

This coordination is automatic when seeing providers who participate with both your primary plan and TRICARE. They handle claim submissions between insurers.

But when seeing non-participating providers, you may need to submit the TRICARE claim yourself after your primary insurer has paid.

Tips for Using TRICARE Select as Secondary Insurance

Follow these best practices to smoothly coordinate your TRICARE benefits:

  • Clearly indicate TRICARE as your secondary insurance at appointments. Provide your TRICARE ID card after your primary insurance card.

  • If your provider doesn’t file with TRICARE, submit claims yourself online via the Beneficiary Web Enrollment portal.

  • Use TRICARE-authorized providers whenever possible. They will handle claims filing.

  • Request Explanations of Benefits (EOBs) from your primary insurer to include with your TRICARE claims.

  • Save all receipts and claim documentation in case you need to resubmit a claim.

  • If your primary insurance changes, update your TRICARE coverage information by submitting an Other Health Insurance form.

  • Carry both primary and TRICARE ID cards to appointments and the pharmacy.

Does TRICARE Select Have Limits as Secondary Insurance?

While TRICARE Select can provide valuable secondary coverage, there are some limitations to be aware of:

  • You must pay TRICARE Select annual enrollment fees even when using it as secondary insurance.

  • TRICARE Select won’t cover services that your primary insurance considers non-covered, like cosmetic surgery.

  • There are caps on how much TRICARE pays annually as secondary insurer:

    • Inpatient care – $1,000 per fiscal year

    • Outpatient care – $1,500 per fiscal year

  • TRICARE Select can’t cover copays from a Medicare Advantage or Part D plan.

  • Some double coverage exclusions apply for seniors with TRICARE For Life.

Any applicable coverage limits will be specified on your TRICARE explanation of benefits.

Bottom Line – Can TRICARE Select Act as Secondary Insurance?

Following coordination steps and being aware of limitations allows you to maximize your total health benefits. Using TRICARE and private insurance together provides military families, retirees, and veterans with lower out-of-pocket costs and greater access to care.

TRICARE4u FAQs – Other Health Insurance Through My Current Employer


Can I use TRICARE as my primary insurance?

If you lose other health insurance, TRICARE becomes your primary payer. If you have TRICARE for Life, TRICARE becomes the second payer after Medicare.

Can TRICARE be secondary to Medicare Advantage plans?

If you enroll in a Medicare Advantage Plan, you still have Medicare. Medicare is still your primary coverage, and TRICARE For Life is the second payer for TRICARE-covered services. Note: Medicare Advantage claims don’t crossover to Medicare.

Can you have TRICARE and a high deductible health plan?

IRS regulations state that only individuals who are solely covered by a qualified HDHP may make or receive contributions to an HSA. All of ENGILITY’s CDHP options are qualified HDHPs. However, TRICARE, Medicare, a spouse’s FSA or other health coverage are not qualified HDHPs.

Do I need supplemental insurance if I have Medicare and TRICARE for Life?

Many people who receive Medicare and TRICARE for Life find that they don’t need additional medical coverage. However, you do have the option of picking up a Medicare Supplement or Medicare Advantage plan.

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