Yes. To continue Tricare benefits after you turn 65, you must enroll in Medicare Part A and Part B.
- Tricare is the health care program for active-duty service members, military retirees and eligible family members.
- Tricare for Life is for those eligible for Tricare who are at least 65 or qualify for Medicare early because of a disability. It’s designed to supplement Medicare, much like Medigap plans do for many of those who sign up for original Medicare.
If you retire from the military and receive Tricare benefits before age 65, your coverage changes to Tricare for Life when you enroll in Medicare. If you don’t enroll in Medicare by 65, your Tricare benefits end the first day of the month you reach 65.
If you don’t sign up within your Medicare initial enrollment period, which begins three months before the month you turn 65 and lasts for three months afterward, you may have to pay a late enrollment penalty if you sign up later — unless you have health insurance from a current employer.
Tricare is different from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health care benefits, which have different rules for coordinating with Medicare. For more information about the health benefits available for veterans, active-duty service members and military families, see AARP’s Veterans Health Benefits Navigator.
How does Tricare for Life differ from Tricare?
If you have Tricare coverage, that can be your primary health insurance before you turn 65 or qualify for Medicare early because of a disability. After you enroll in Medicare, Tricare for Life wraps around your Medicare coverage.
Tricare has several coverage options depending on whether you’re on active duty or a military retiree. Some types of Tricare contract with hospitals and medical personnel that deliver care at a lower cost to you than out-of-network services, similar to a health maintenance organization (HMO) or preferred provider organization (PPO). After you retire from the military, Tricare can be your primary coverage or you can use it to supplement coverage from another employer until you turn 65.
Tricare for Life fills in many gaps in Medicare. When you sign up for Medicare Part A and Part B, Tricare for Life covers Medicare’s deductibles and copayments, provides prescription drug coverage and includes extra benefits such as health care outside the United States. You can generally use any provider who accepts Medicare.
Military retirees who have Tricare automatically move to Tricare for Life when they enroll in Medicare Part A and Part B. You don’t need to submit special paperwork, but you must sign up for both parts of Medicare to receive Tricare for Life.