Before purchasing any insurance policy, ask the agent specific questions about how the company handles issues related to the military deployment of their policyholders. Each company’s practices can vary. Compare prices and the level of service across a few different insurance providers. By shopping around, you may be able to find an insurer that specializes in the needs of service members.
Before you leave on a military deployment, check your policy renewal date and payment terms with your agent to ensure your coverage will remain in effect during deployment. If necessary, you may be able to renew a policy early or have your premiums paid by automated bank draft. Some insurance companies might also allow you to suspend certain coverage while you are deployed.
- Many reservists and National Guard members have health coverage for themselves and their families through an employer-sponsored health plan. Some may wish to continue that coverage, particularly for their dependents, during their active duty period. Talk with your benefits administrator to learn what will happen with your health coverage when you are called to active duty. While employers are not required to pay the cost of health coverage for you and your dependents while you are on active duty, some employers may choose to continue benefits at their current level.
- If you are on active duty for more than 30 days, you and your dependents should be covered by military health care. Dependents have medical and dental services provided through uniformed services facilities subject to availability and are eligible for health benefits from civilian sources through the federally funded TRICARE program, the triple option benefit plan available for military families, formerly known as CHAMPUS (Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Uniformed Services). Contact your military unit for more information on these programs.
- Your right to continue health coverage under an employment-based group health plan is covered by federal laws. The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) provides health coverage continuation rights to employees and their families after an event such as reduction in employment hours. The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA) is intended to minimize the disadvantages that occur when a person needs to be absent from civilian employment to serve in the uniformed services. Both COBRA and USERRA generally allow individuals called for active duty to continue coverage for themselves and their dependents under an employment-based group health plan for up to 24 months. If military service is for 30 days or less, you and your family can continue coverage at the same cost prior to your short service. If the duration of your military service is longer, you may be required to pay one hundred percent of the full premium plus a two percent administration fee to continue this coverage for you or your family. You should receive a notice from your plan explaining your rights.
- The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) may give you and your family rights to enroll in other group health plan coverage if it is available to you (for example, if your spouse's employer sponsors a group health plan). You and your family have the opportunity to enroll outside of the plan's official enrollment periods. However, to qualify, you must request enrollment in the other plan (for example, your spouse's plan) within 30 days of losing eligibility for coverage under your employer's plan. After this special enrollment is requested, the health care plan must provide coverage no later than the first day of the first month following your enrollment request. If you are on active duty more than 30 days, coverage in another plan through special enrollment can be cheaper than continuation coverage because the employer often pays a part of the premium. When considering your health coverage options, you should examine the scope of the coverage including benefit coverage and limitations, visit limits, dollar limits, cost of premiums, cost-sharing (including co-payments and deductibles), and coverage waiting periods.
- An individual policy can be used for your family members. But speak with your agent as there is a war exclusion that might make coverage for the military personnel void. Should you purchase an individual military-focused policy, check with your agent to make sure it does not duplicate coverage for your family that could be obtained elsewhere.
This article is provided by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC). Learn more about health insurance from a licensed financial advisor using our one-of-a-kind Find An Advisor tool.