WASHINGTON, Jan. 15, 2015 – As tax season begins, Defense Department officials want to remind TRICARE beneficiaries of changes in the tax laws, which require all Americans to have health care insurance or potentially pay a tax penalty.
For the first time since the Affordable Care Act passed in 2010, all U.S. citizens, including service members, military retirees and their family members, must report health care coverage on their 2014 taxes, said Mark Ellis, a Defense Health Agency health care operations program analyst.
For this year only, taxpayers will “self-attest” on their 2014 tax forms to each month in which they had health care coverage, he said.
Meets Minimal Essential Coverage
The act mandates that health care must meet minimum essential coverage, and TRICARE coverage meets that criteria for the majority of service members and their families, Ellis said.
TRICARE Prime, TRICARE Standard, TRICARE for Life, TRICARE Overseas, TRICARE Remote and the Uniformed Services Family Health Plan meet the minimum essential coverage, he added. When purchased, premium-based plan such as TRICARE Reserve Select or TRICARE Retired Reserve also fulfill the act’s requirements.
Uniformed service members who have questions about TRICARE, the act and the individual coverage mandate can visit the TRICARE website to download a fact sheet on TRICARE and the act, with TRICARE plans compared to minimum essential coverage, Ellis said.
Military beneficiaries that are solely eligible for care in military hospitals and clinics, for example, parents and parents-in-law, have an automatic exemption from the tax penalty for tax year 2014 only.
(NOTE: The TRICARE and ACA fact sheet is available at http://www.tricare.mil/~/media/Files/TRICARE/Publications/FactSheets/ACA_FS.pdf)
The site also has suggestions for those who need to purchase coverage to meet the act’s minimum requirements, he noted. That could include retired reservists, Selected Reserve members, young adults up to age 26 and those who leave military service but need transitional coverage, Ellis said.
TRICARE beneficiaries with tax questions should contact the Internal Revenue Service or their tax advisers, he emphasized.
“The experts there can help them,” Ellis said.
Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story stated that TRICARE would send tax forms to its customers in January 2015. That was incorrect. TRICARE customers, like all filers, will self-attest on their 2014 tax returns, no health care coverage forms will be mailed.