Chelsey Tucker graduated with a Bachelor of History degree from Metropolitan State University in 2019. She now writes about insurance with her specialty being life insurance and has been quoted on Help Smart Phone and MEL Magazine.

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Dan Walker graduated with a BS in Administrative Management in 2005 and has been working in his family’s insurance agency, FCI Agency, for 15 years. He is licensed as an agent to write property and casualty insurance, including home, auto, umbrella, and dwelling fire insurance. He’s also been featured on sites like

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Reviewed by Daniel Walker
Licensed Auto Insurance Agent

UPDATED: Mar 19, 2020

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The lowdown...

  • Tricare is the health insurance program offered by the U.S. Department of Defense
  • Active duty members and retirees can choose from various levels of Tricare, which includes Prime, Extra, Standard and Tricare for Life
  • Veterans of the United States military who received an honorable discharge but did not retire from the armed forces qualify for health insurance through the Department of Veterans Affairs, also known as the VA

The United States military offers several types of health insurance for active duty members of the armed forces, retired members of the armed forces, and qualified veterans.

Health insurance through the military can get tricky, so here is an overview that will help you understand and manage your military coverage plans.

Enter your zip above to compare Tricare and other private health insurance plans for free.

A Brief Look at Tricare


As a member of the United States military, you and your family are entitled to quality health and life insurance coverage at little or no cost. The health insurance offered by the Department of Defense is an HMO-type plan known as Tricare.

Depending upon your active duty station, you will receive health care at your station’s medical treatment facility through Tricare.

A primary care manager oversees you and your family’s healthcare through a network of preferred or in-network providers. Other programs under Tricare, such as Tricare Standard, allow you to choose a provider outside the network for a fee.

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Tricare Prime

Tricare Prime offers you fewer out-of-pocket expenses than other Tricare options, but the program does not offer the flexibility to see other health care providers outside of the network.

Tricare Prime is available to active-duty personnel and retirees worldwide, but you must voluntarily enroll in the program.

Active-duty members do not pay enrollment fees for Tricare, but retirees and other beneficiaries of Tricare Prime pay a monthly fee of $23.55 for individuals and $47.10 for families.

Tricare Standard


Tricare Standard gives you more flexibility when it comes to choosing your health care provider. However, the costs of the program are significantly higher than other Tricare programs.

The standard program does not require you to pay premiums, but you must pay an annual deductible and pay a cost share based on who you are and the type of care you receive.

Here are the annual deductibles associated with the Tricare Standard program:

Active Duty/Reserves, Retirees, and National Guard:

  • Ranks E-4 and below — $50 per person, $100 per family
  • Ranks E-5 and above — $150 per person, $300 per family
  • Retirees pay $150 per individual and no more than $300 annually

Tricare Extra


Tricare Extra is a health care program that tailors to the family members of active duty personnel and the families of activated reserve members or the National Guard. Retired members of the armed forces also qualify for Tricare Extra.

The program is a fee-for-service plan allowing the beneficiaries of active-duty members and retirees to see providers that participate in the Tricare network.

The program is only available in the United States, but it does meet the minimum qualifying coverage required under the Affordable Care Act.

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Tricare for Life


With Tricare for Life, you are free to visit any Medicare participating or nonparticipating health care provider. You may also visit any military hospital or health center.

Tricare for Life is an extension of Medicare Parts A and B and there are no restrictions based on your age or where you reside. However, you must pay your Part B Medicare premiums.

There are no enrollment fees for this program and no out-of-pocket costs for services that both Tricare and Medicare cover.

VA Health Insurance Benefits


If you served in the United States military and you were discharged under any circumstance other than dishonorable, you are considered a veteran and you may qualify for health insurance through the Department of Veterans Affairs.

As of 2016, the VA’s minimum duty requirements stand at 24 consecutive months of service.

Remember: If you were discharged due to a disability prior to the 24-month requirement, you can still qualify for health care through the VA.

You may also qualify for an enhanced eligibility status if you meet certain criteria. Enhanced eligibility includes former prisoners of war, Purple Heart recipients, Medal of Honor winners, or those who served in Vietnam or the Persian Gulf War.

Choosing the Right Tricare Plan for You

You can speak to someone on base about your medical needs and budget in order to decide on a Tricare plan that’s right for you and your family.

Serving as a member of the armed forces provides a wonderful opportunity for you and your immediate family to receive qualified, reliable health care that can continue after you have finished serving.

Enter your zip below for free health insurance quotes to compare; a little research can put you in touch with an affordable provider and great coverage for your whole family!