Changes to health insurance coming for retired veterans & famili - - No One Gets You Closer

Changes to health insurance coming for retired veterans & families


SHERMAN -- Keitha Sonnier is a hair stylist in Sherman. She's also a mother of three and says she relies on the health insurance her husband, Nate, gets through the military as a reward for his 20 years of service.

"He worked really hard to protect our country," she said. "When you stay 20 years in the military, it's not just for the service of your country, but it's also because you want those benefits that are available to you after you retire."

Health insurance is offered to retired veterans, like Nate, and their families through a military-managed provider called Tricare.

Their current coverage called Tricare Prime means they pay a small co-pay for doctor visits.

But because of recently renegotiated contracts with Tricare, the Sonniers along with an estimated 170,000 other beneficiaries will soon see a substantial increase in out-of-pocket costs.

"It just has really changed the direction of what it was previously," Keitha Sonnier said.

Under the new rules, beneficiaries who live more than 40 miles from a military treatment facility or base will have to shift to a lower level of coverage called Tricare Standard.

That leaves families like the Sonniers to pay not only a $300 deductible annually, but also 25% of the entire doctor bill out-of-pocket, which for the Sonniers, could cost hundreds of dollars each.

As a result, Sonnier and another retired military family have started an online petition with hopes that Washington will review the changes before they take effect later this year.

"It's not just about retired military because if it can change for us, it can change for active duty as well," she said.

The move is expected to save the health care system $55 million dollars. The changes are scheduled to take effect October 1, 2013.