Running On Hold With the Automated Voice Response System
J. D. Pendry
To hear a list of the things they didn't tell you at the retirement briefing press 1 now. To speak with a real human who will say ummm, and uh-huh a lot remain on the line and listen to Barry Manilow tunes frequently interrupted by our recording reminding you of how important your call is to us.
I went to the retirement briefing twice. Sat through the whole thing both times. I must have missed a few things. I hope to share those with you future retirees - maybe they'll help you out.
TRICARE does not mean the person on the other end of the line cares for you or your problem three times as much. When you have a tough question like, what should I do, expect to be given back to Barry while a manual or other actual human is consulted.
With my new job I am offered the same health benefits all teachers in the state get - a variety of different HMO arrangements. You'll like this part. Cost-wise, TRICARE Prime is the best deal. Here's the glitch. You have to find a TRICARE Prime network provider that will accept you and your family as new patients. There were only three in my area and none were accepting new patients. In the school complex where I work there is also a medical clinic with a Family Practice doctor. Since this was a new clinic I inquired if they were TRICARE Prime providers. (Here's one for you SMA. This is Region 5, Anthem Alliance is the Insurance.) "Yes we are", was the response I got, "but we can't accept you yet because our status with CHAMPUS (TRICARE) is still pending. We applied two months ago". They tried the 800 number for providers and could not get an answer on their status either. When I checked I was told, "our first phase for approving providers takes at least 8 weeks and we are really backlogged, our second phase is even longer than that". Fine and dandy in an area with many providers, but over here in Wild Wonderful West Virginia not a good situation. After contemplating paying nearly double for my medical coverage I went back and begged one of the doctors who finally agreed to accept my wife and I as new patients.
Between Manilow tunes I also found out that you must have your enrollment forms and money in no later than the 20th of the month preceding the month you want your retiree coverage to begin. In other words, my retirement date is October 1, so my enrollment and payment must be in by September 20 to prevent a lapse in coverage - something else I didn't remember from the TRICARE briefing.
I did find a plus in this business. The Merck-Medco mail order pharmacy set up for TRICARE. You can get a ninety-day supply of medication for an $8 co-pay per prescription. If you use a TRICARE network pharmacy it costs you $9 for a thirty-day supply of medicine. No one has been able to tell me why one costs more than three times as much as the other - and under the same coverage.
If there is a lesson in this here it is: If you are retiring and planning to live away from military installations (I've discovered a lot of folks do that.) start researching the area. Find a primary care doctor that is listed as a TRCARE Prime network provider and then go beg to be accepted as a new patient. Before you blindly sign up for one of those "better deals", do some serious cost comparisons. I couldn't find a better deal than TRICARE Prime but maybe you can.
Rotate your tires, change your oil and take this with you to your retirement briefing.
© J. D. Pendry