TRICARE, oh TRICARE, you appear to be this impenetrable fortress of confusion; because you are. You are confusing, overwhelming, hard to keep up with, and complicated. There are regions, health care plans (Prime versus Standard), changing polices, and well the list seems endless. While TRICARE can and is at times overwhelming, there is hope. It’s not difficult all of the time.
In a recent conversation with MOAA, I was told that TRICARE works for 90-95% of their recipients. I can’t believe our military health insurance works for so many people. Of course it does work. TRICARE is meant to work and it has for me with my extensive knee surgery and having my son.
Issues arise with TRICARE when it comes to adult and pediatric specialty care, complex medical issues, and EFMP families. For those families, TRICARE is near impossible to work with.
So, how do you work with TRICARE? Here’s a list of methods I use while working with TRICARE. Remember, this is what works best for me and may not work for you.
1. Be prepared. Like the Boy Scouts, you should be prepared when you call TRICARE with questions. Write them down, prepare a little speech, whatever you do to prepare; do it. The last thing you want to do is to forget to ask something and not get all the information that you need. It’s really annoying going through all the phone prompts to ask the forgotten question all because you were ill-prepared.
2. Take names. Seriously. Take names when you speak to the representative. Let them know that you want their name, and then write it down. Also, write down the time that you call. So really this tip should be entitled, “Write It Down” but Take Names sounds tough! So take names of the people you are speaking with and write them down. Which brings me to my third tip.
3. Write everything down. I know you’ve heard this before, but it’s true. Write down as much of the conversation. You never know when you might need to reference that information.
4. Speak honey. What’s “speaking honey”? You know the saying that you catch more flies with honey than vinegar? It’s true. When you speak vinegar you get nowhere. People become defensive and communication shuts down. I know how hard it is to be nice, but do the best you can to speak honey!
5. Patience is really virtue, so put that virtue to good use. Don’t yell, don’t be rude, don’t be the reason the TRICARE representative has a bad day. You will probably not get the answers you want to hear while on the phone and your instincts will go into overload. Don’t let those instincts control you.
I know this seems like no-brainer advice, but it’s hard to remember when your emotions are getting the best of you. I struggle remembering this advice because it’s so personal. When your family is fighting for healthcare, it’s personal and emotional. I have been pushed to my limits with TRICARE and lost my temper a number of times; I have regretted my behavior.
The biggest piece of information that I have learned is that on the other end of that phone call is a person. That person is working to provide for their family just like I am. They aren’t the ones that decide the policies they just inform us, and sometimes they empathize with us.
Just remember in our military family support world exists a group of grassroots parent advocates. We are working to update TRICARE policy every day. Speak honey and be patient with us; we are trying to navigate these policies too.
Susan Reynolds currently resides in Fayetteville, NC. She is a proud AF Spouse to Jeremy and a super proud Mommy to Ian. Susan loves reading, would seriously never leave college if possible, carries two copies of the US Constitution, and sings frequently (despite her horrid voice). She thinks laughing until a person snorts is the best thing ever, and fully encourages her toddler to squeal with delight at ever given opportunity. Being silly is fun, so if you are silly go and sit by her. One of her greatest passion, besides laughing, is advocating for those that have no voice. Susan advocates for pediatric healthcare reform for military children which she feels is an honor and blessing.
Top picture is of Susan’s son Ian with Congresswoman Renee Ellmer NC-2 at the Capital. He called her his “Princess”.