FALLS CHURCH, Va. (Army News Service, Sept. 27, 2007) - National Guard and Reserve members participating in the TRICARE Reserve Select healthcare plan have until Sunday - when all coverage under the "old" system ceases - to sign up for the restructured TRS.

The revamped version, effective Oct. 1, is affordable and simpler, with one premium level instead of the current three-tier system.

"There have been many improvements in reserve-component pay and benefits in the past few years," said Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs Thomas F. Hall. "TRS is a robust healthcare plan. It represents a substantial benefit available to our Reserve and National Guard servicemembers and their Families."

Monthly premiums are $81 for servicemembers and $253 for both servicemembers and Families. TRS offers coverage comparable to TRICARE Standard and Extra.

The revamped program includes expanded survivor coverage, prescription drug benefits, continuously open enrollment and much more. Gone are service agreements and differing qualifications for each of the three tiers.

Beneficiaries may receive care in military treatment facilities on a space-available basis, and have the freedom to manage their own healthcare with no assigned primary care manager. The new program also does away with the need for referrals.

There are only two qualifications under the restructured program. First, servicemembers must be selected reserve members of the Ready Reserve. Second, they must not be eligible for, or currently covered by, the Federal Employee Health Benefits program (either on their own or through Family members).

Reserve Affairs sent a letter in August to reserve-component servicemembers currently covered by TRS, explaining the program changes and how to continue coverage. As of early September, only 15 percent of approximately 11,000 current members had completed and submitted the new TRS request forms.

To continue TRS coverage, all current members must go to
https://www.dmdc.osd.mil/appj/trs/, print out the new TRS request form, sign it and return it to their regional contractors by Sept. 30. If payment is usually made by check, the first month's payment must also be included. Members who pay electronically do not need to include a payment if they meet the deadline.

National Guard members and Reservists can find out more about the updated plan through the "My Benefits" portal at
www.tricare.mil. Reserve-component points of contact - identified at
www.defenselink.mil/ra/html/tricare.html - can answer additional questions.

(Bonnie J. Powell is the director of public affairs for TRICARE Communications and Customer Service.)