One of the most overlooked aspects of leaving the military is losing your military health care benefits. Love it or hate it, Tricare provides military members and their families with a stable health care plan. If you have just left, or are leaving the military health care system soon, then the Continued Health Care Benefit Program (CHCBP) may prove to be a lifesaver.
The Continued Health Care Benefit Program is available to everyone who is leaving Tricare (the military health care system), including military members and their dependents, unmarried former spouses and children.
That means the CHCBP may be a good option for service members and their families who are separating from the military, spouses going through a divorce and children who are moving out of the house or lose age eligibility for Tricare, and other situations. Let’s take a look at this program, including what it covers, who is eligible and how to apply for benefits.
CHCBP – Military Version of COBRA Health Coverage
In the civilian world, companies that offer group health care coverage to their employees are also required to offer them COBRA health insurance coverage, which makes employer-sponsored health care benefits available to former employees for up to 18-36 months after they leave their job.
The primary difference is that employers often subsidize benefits while an employee works for the company, but they are not required to do so under COBRA. Basically, the former employee still has access to the same benefits but may be required to pay 100% of the cost of the program.
While the CHCBP is similar to COBRA, it isn’t actually a true COBRA benefits program since the health care provider under CHCBP isn’t Tricare.
But the program is similar to COBRA since the benefits under CHCBP are very similar to those under Tricare Select, and the members are required to pay premiums to participate in the program. However, the cost may actually be less than many commercial-sector COBRA benefits programs.
What is CHCBP?
The Continued Health Care Benefit Program is an optional health care program which, like COBRA, is designed to be a transitional medical care program. It is designed to provide insurance in between military health care coverage and a civilian health care program. Though the CHCBP is not Tricare, it does follow most of the same rules and benefits as Tricare Select.
Continuous health care coverage and preexisting coverage. The benefit of using the CHCBP is that you will have continuous health care coverage, which can be important in qualifying for a new health care plan, especially if you are buying an individual health care plan or if you have preexisting medical conditions, though this is less of an issue since the Affordable Care Act was signed into law.
Qualifying for Continued Health Care Benefit Program Benefits
The main eligibility requirement is that the member must be coming out of Tricare coverage or the Transitional Assistance Management Program (TAMP).
Continued Health Care Benefit Program Eligibility
|Former Category||Scenario||Length of Coverage|
|Active-duty service member||Released from active duty||Up to 18 months|
|Full-time National Guard member||Separated from full-time status||Up to 18 months|
|Member covered by the Transitional Assistance Management Program (TAMP)||Loss of TAMP coverage||Up to 18 months|
|Selected Reserve member covered by TRS||Loss of TRS coverage||Up to 18 months|
|Retired Reserve member covered by TRR||Loss of TRR coverage (before age 60)||Up to 18 months|
|Dependent spouse or child||Loss of Tricare coverage||Up to 36 months|
|Unremarried former spouse||Loss of Tricare coverage||Up to 36 months*|
*Unremarried former spouses may qualify for additional coverage. Please check with Humana Military for details.
Eligibility is limited to:
- 18 months for separating service members and their families if service member elects family coverage.
- 36 months for a family member who ceases to meet the requirements for being considered an unmarried dependent child or spouse. (In some cases, unremarried former spouses may continue coverage beyond 36 months if they meet certain criteria. )
Eligibility beyond 36 months for certain former spouses. Former spouses who meet the following criteria may be eligible for more than 36 months of CHCBP benefits (see the US Code for more specific info):
- Did not remarry before age 55.
- Was enrolled in an approved health benefits plan as a family member at any time during the 18-month period before the date of the divorce, dissolution, or annulment.
- Is receiving any portion of the retired or retainer pay of the member or former member service member, or has a court order or written agreement that provides a share of the retirement benefits.
You Must Decide Quickly – or You Lose Eligibility
Eligible members only have 60 days to purchase Continued Health Care Benefit Program benefits (30 days for Tricare Reserve Select (TRS) members who have remaining eligibility). The clock starts running when the member separates from active duty or loses military health care benefits.
Continued Health Care Benefit Program Cost and Management
The Continued Health Care Benefit Program is run by Humana Military Healthcare Services Inc. The cost of the CHCBP premiums is based on the fiscal year (Oct. 1-Sept. 30). Here are the premiums for fiscal year 2022
Premiums for individual coverage: $1,654 per quarter
- Individual coverage is available to the sponsor, a former spouse who has not remarried or an adult child.
Premiums for family coverage: $4,079 per quarter
- Family coverage is only available to former service members and their dependents. For family coverage, dependents cannot enroll unless the sponsor enrolls.
On the surface, these premiums may appear to be expensive, especially when compared to the no-cost Tricare Prime you are most likely used to. However, these premiums are often comparable to unsubsidized group health care plans.
Here is more information on enrollment, including eligibility requirements for Guard and Reserve members who were activated. You will also need to contact Humana Military in order to start the program. You can use the previous link or contact Humana Military using the information listed below:
P.O. Box 740072
Louisville, KY 40201-7472
Is the Continued Health Care Benefit Program a Good Deal?
Health care in the U.S. is a complicated business, and finding the best plan can be a chore – especially if you are not immediately employed when you separate from the military. My recommendation is to start looking at your health care options well in advance of losing your Tricare benefits.
It is always a good idea to look into health care through your employer, and if you do not have a job lined up, you should investigate the cost of an individual health care plan. Here is more information on comparing individual and group health insurance to better understand which options are best for you. You can also compare health insurance plans with a variety of vendors.
If you are in good health and do not have any preexisting medical conditions, you may be able to find a cheaper individual health care plan on your own. Depending on your employment prospects and health, you may find that the CHCBP is the most affordable option available to you.
Certain veterans are eligible for VA health care benefits. However, it may take time to establish eligibility and enroll in the VA health care system. Additionally, VA health care coverage is generally only available to the veteran and not family members. It is recommended to have a health care plan in place before leaving the military health care system to avoid any breaks in service.
This article covers additional health care options after leaving military service.