Tricare Young Adult: Health Care for College-Aged Dependents

In the absence of employer-sponsored plans, Tricare Young Adult can provide essential health coverage for unmarried adult children under age 26. Tricare Young Adult has Prime and Select options.
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A college student uses his Tricare Young Adult plan to get low-cost health care.

Getting access to low-cost health care is a challenge for many young Americans.

Children lose eligibility to remain on a parent’s Tricare plan when they reach age 21 or 23 if they attend college full-time. Young adults may not have access to employer-sponsored plans, and health insurance options on the open market can be prohibitively expensive.

That’s where Tricare Young Adult comes in. Tricare Young Adult gives college-aged dependents a chance to continue their Tricare coverage until they are 26 years old.

Here’s what you need to know about Tricare Young Adult.

Table of Contents
  1. When Do Children Lose Eligibility for Tricare Family Plans?
  2. Five Things to Know About Tricare Young Adult
    1. Tricare Young Adult Prime
    2. Tricare Young Adult Select
  3. Eligibility and Costs
    1. Am I Eligible?
  4. Costs
    1. Tricare Young Adult Prime Costs
    2. Tricare Young Adult Select Costs
  5. How to Enroll in Tricare Young Adult
  6. What Happens After You Lose Access to Tricare Young Adult?

When Do Children Lose Eligibility for Tricare Family Plans?

Tricare eligibility for child dependents ends on their 21st birthday. If a dependent child attends college full-time and the service member sponsor provides more than 50% of the child’s financial support, Tricare family plan coverage can continue until age 23.

However, this eligibility extension for full-time college students isn’t automatic. Parents must send Tricare a letter from the college registrar’s office stating that the child is enrolled full-time in pursuit of an associate’s degree or higher.

Tricare family plan eligibility for full-time college students ends when the child turns 23 or graduates college, whichever happens first.

To keep Tricare coverage until age 26, qualified adult children can enroll in a Tricare Young Adult plan.

Five Things to Know About Tricare Young Adult

  1. Tricare Young Adult is a solution for adult children who “age out” of a parent’s Tricare when they reach age 21 (23 for full-time college students).
  2. Qualified adult children are eligible for Tricare Young Adult until they turn 26.
  3. Married adult children and those eligible for an employer-sponsored health plan can’t enroll in Tricare Young Adult.
  4. Tricare Young Adult is a premium-based health care plan that also requires cost shares.
  5. Tricare Young Adult enrollees may choose coverage in a Tricare Prime or Tricare Select plan.

What Is Tricare Young Adult?

Tricare Young Adult is a premium-based, comprehensive health plan for adult children of service members who have aged out of a Tricare family plan. The plan includes medical and pharmacy benefits. Eligible dependents can remain enrolled in Tricare Young Adult until age 26.

Tricare Young Adult Prime

Tricare Young Adult Prime works the same as Tricare Prime.

Enrollees receive most of their care through an assigned primary care manager (PCM), who writes referrals for specialist visits. It has low co-pays and deductibles but less freedom to choose your care than Tricare Select offers.

Not everyone who qualifies for Tricare Young Adult can enroll in a Prime plan.

Children of military retirees may only enroll in Tricare Young Adult Prime if they reside in a Tricare Prime service area. Adult children can not enroll in Tricare Young Adult Prime if the sponsor is on a Tricare Reserve Select or Tricare Retired Reserve plan.

Tricare Young Adult Select

Tricare Young Adult Select works the same as Tricare Select. Tricare Select plans offer beneficiaries more freedom to select providers and specialists without a PCM referral. However, the plans have higher deductibles and co-pays than Tricare Prime.

Eligibility and Costs

Am I Eligible?

You may be eligible for Tricare Young Adult if you:

  • Have aged out of your family Tricare plan, age 21 or 23, depending on full-time college status
  • Are unmarried
  • Are not eligible for an employer-sponsored health plan
  • Are under age 26
  • Are not otherwise eligible for Tricare coverage

Ensure that your information is up-to-date in DEERS before enrolling in any Tricare plan.


The cost for Tricare Young Adult depends on whether you choose a Prime or Select Plan.

Tricare Young Adult Prime Costs

Tricare Young Adult Prime premiums for 2023 are $570 per month, according to a Nov. 7 Tricare news release.

Co-pays for Tricare Young Adult Prime are the same as Tricare Prime. These vary between $24 and $182 in 2023, according to the Nov. 7 news release. Tricare Young Adult Prime plans do not have deductibles.

Tricare Young Adult Select Costs

Tricare Young Adult Select premiums are $291 monthly in 2023.

Tricare Young Adult Select deductibles depend on whether you receive in-network or out-of-network care. In 2023, these range from $182 per month to $365, according to the 2023 Tricare costs and fees fact sheet.

How to Enroll in Tricare Young Adult

Call your regional Tricare contractor to enroll in Tricare Young Adult, or use milConnect. Just click on the “benefits” tab and “beneficiary web enrollment” after you log in.

Adult children must have up-to-date addresses in DEERs, including college addresses. Tricare will use these to determine the Tricare region and Prime eligibility.

What Happens After You Lose Access to Tricare Young Adult?

After you age out of Tricare Young Adult, you can extend your Tricare coverage up to 36 months by enrolling in Tricare’s Continuing Health Care Benefit Program (CHCBP). You can read more in our CHCBP article here.

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  1. Gwendolyn Annette Scott says

    Not really understanding why if they say that a kid can stay on tricare until they are 26 that it will cost them over $500 dollars a month can someone please explain why!

    • Ryan Guina says

      Gwendolyn, the military subsidizes healthcare expenses for current servicemembers and dependents. The Affordable Care Act required insurance companies to allow dependents to remain on their parent’s health insurance plan until age 26, which makes it easier for young adults to establish themselves and hopefully, get to the point where they can establish an insurance policy in their own name. However, many employers that offer insurance no longer subsidize the cost of healthcare insurance after a child reaches a certain age.

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