Navigating Medicare and TRICARE: What Happens When You Turn 65?

As you approach your 65th birthday, it’s essential to understand how your TRICARE coverage will be affected and what steps you need to take to ensure seamless healthcare coverage. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the intricate relationship between Medicare and TRICARE, helping you navigate the transition process smoothly.

Understanding TRICARE For Life (TFL)

When you turn 65 and become eligible for Medicare Part A and Part B, you’ll automatically transition to TRICARE For Life (TFL). TFL is a comprehensive Medicare-wraparound coverage designed for TRICARE-eligible retirees and their eligible family members.

Here’s what you need to know about TFL:

  • Enrollment: There’s no need to enroll in TFL separately. Once you have both Medicare Part A and Part B, you’ll be automatically covered under TFL.
  • Primary Payer: With TFL, Medicare becomes your primary payer, and TRICARE acts as a second payer, covering out-of-pocket costs for services covered by both Medicare and TRICARE.
  • Providers: You can seek care from any Medicare-participating or non-participating provider, including those who have opted out of Medicare. However, your costs may be higher with non-participating or opt-out providers.

Ensuring Eligibility for TRICARE For Life

To remain TRICARE-eligible and transition to TFL when you turn 65, you must meet specific requirements:

  1. Medicare Part A: You must be entitled to premium-free Medicare Part A. This eligibility is typically based on your or your spouse’s work history and the number of Social Security quarters you’ve accrued.

  2. Medicare Part B: In addition to Medicare Part A, you must also enroll in Medicare Part B. Failure to enroll in Medicare Part B will result in the loss of your TRICARE coverage.

It’s crucial to sign up for Medicare Part A and Part B during the appropriate enrollment period, which typically begins three months before your 65th birthday month. Timely enrollment will ensure a smooth transition to TFL and prevent any gaps in your healthcare coverage.

Scenarios for TRICARE Eligibility

Depending on your specific situation, there may be different scenarios that affect your TRICARE eligibility when you turn 65. Here are a few common examples:

  • Premium-Free Medicare Part A Eligibility Through Spouse: If you’re not eligible for premium-free Medicare Part A through your own work history but are eligible through your current, divorced, or deceased spouse’s work history, you’ll need to follow specific steps to maintain TRICARE eligibility.

  • Not Eligible for Premium-Free Medicare Part A: If you’re not eligible for premium-free Medicare Part A through your own or your spouse’s work history, you may still be able to enroll in the US Family Health Plan (USFHP) or remain eligible for TRICARE Prime or TRICARE Select after turning 65, provided you take the necessary steps outlined by TRICARE.

  • Active Duty Service Members and Family Members: Active duty service members and their family members who are entitled to premium-free Medicare Part A can remain eligible for TRICARE Prime or TRICARE Select without enrolling in Medicare Part B until the sponsor’s active duty status ends.

It’s essential to review your specific circumstances and follow the guidance provided by TRICARE to ensure a seamless transition to the appropriate healthcare coverage when you turn 65.

Maximizing Your TRICARE and Medicare Benefits

To make the most of your TRICARE and Medicare benefits after turning 65, consider the following tips:

  • Update Your Information: Keep your contact and personal information up to date in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS) to ensure effective delivery of your TRICARE benefits.

  • Understand Medicare Costs: Be aware of the costs associated with Medicare, such as premiums, deductibles, and coinsurance. TFL will cover most out-of-pocket costs for services covered by both Medicare and TRICARE, but you may still be responsible for certain expenses.

  • Explore Additional Coverage Options: Depending on your circumstances, you may want to explore additional coverage options, such as Medicare Supplement (Medigap) plans or Medicare Part D prescription drug plans, to further reduce your out-of-pocket costs.

  • Coordinate Care: If you have ongoing medical treatments or require specialized care, coordinate with your healthcare providers to ensure a smooth transition and continuity of care as you move from TRICARE to TFL.

By understanding the intricacies of Medicare and TRICARE, staying informed about your eligibility requirements, and taking proactive steps, you can ensure a seamless transition to TRICARE For Life when you turn 65, enjoying comprehensive healthcare coverage and peace of mind.

TRICARE for 65 And Over


How does TRICARE work when I turn 65?

TRICARE benefits include covering Medicare’s coinsurance and deductible for services covered by Medicare and TRICARE. When retired service members or eligible family members reach age 65 and are eligible for Medicare, they become eligible for TRICARE For Life and are no longer able to enroll in other TRICARE plans.

Does my wife get TRICARE for life when she turns 65?

Retirees and their spouses individually lose their TRICARE benefit on the last day of the month prior to their 65th birth month. Unless covered by their own (or their spouse’s) employer health care plan, they must enroll in Medicare or face premium penalties for late enrollment.

Do military retirees get TRICARE for life?

Generally, when a retiree or retiree family member becomes individually eligible for Medicare Part A and enrolls in Medicare Part B, he or she is automatically eligible for TRICARE For Life. Your primary care manager (PCM) will provide or arrange your routine care.

At what age do you lose TRICARE?

If they’re under 21, TRICARE coverage continues until age 21. If they’re 21 or over, TRICARE coverage ends when they graduate or turn 23, whichever comes first. When they lose eligibility, they may qualify to buy TRICARE Young Adult (TYA).

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