Tricare and FEHB benefits


Q. I retired from the Army in 2011 and have been working as a contractor since then. I have just accepted a GS position. I have Tricare (retired) now. Does my new position have the option of Tricare or is that just a military thing? If not, then should I ditch the Tricare for the FEHB? Any advantages/disadvantages either way?

A. No, a federal civilian employee doesn’t have the option of Tricare, However, you are free to continue that coverage on your own. Whether you switch from TriCare to FEHB coverage is up to you. Note: If you want to keep Tricare coverage but want to have the FEHB program as an option when you retire, you would only need to be enroll in it during the Open Season that precedes your retirement.


About Author

Reg Jones was head of retirement and insurance policy at the Office of Personnel Management. Email your retirement-related questions to


  1. Reg,
    I am a retired Marine and am 63 my wife just turned 65. We have TRICARE and we have FEHB. My wife has signed up for Medicare. When I retire I will do the same. Should these three together (TRICARE, Medicare, and FEHB) be a good plan for us? Do we need anything else as a supplemental? My wife likes the military medicine and so do I. Neither of has ever accessed FEHB as I am enrolled as it provides health insurance for my son. Thank you,

    • What I’ve been told by other retirees in your position is that they suspended their FEHB coverage and were satisfied with the combination of TRICARE and Medicare. No one who has talked to me ever indicated that a supplemental policy would be needed.

  2. Hi Reg,

    Thanks for providing this resource for uncomplicated answers to a subject that is anything but uncomplicated.
    I turn 65 in October this year and will go on Medicare. My wife just turned 50 this past May. We are both retired from the Navy with no dependents. My wife began working with Civil Service in March of 2016 and declined to enroll FEHB because we are TRICARE eligible. We reside on Guam where access to a variety of specialist is much more limited than CONUS. Additionally, Naval Hospital Guam will not be increasing staff size even though a constant force of 5,000 Marines are slated to be deployed to Guam in the next few years. We have talked to other military/civil service retired persons on Guam who elected to carry their FEHB policy into retirement citing limitations on Guam and more flexibility (being able to go directly to specialist) than TRICARE/MediCare allow. My question is does my wife have to be enrolled in FEHB for five years prior to being eligible to continue FEHB into retirement? Also, if she enrolls in FEHB and we plan on carrying that forever, should I opt out of MediCare Part B to offset the cost of FEHB? Thanks in advance for your answer.

    • Yes, your wife would have to be enrolled in the FEHB program for 5 consecutive years to carry that coverage into retirement. Whether you opt out of Medicare Part B is entirely up to you. I’m not able to offer any advice.

  3. Question about Activated Reservists and FEHB.

    I do understand that Reservists cannot care Tricare Reserve Select currently if eligible for FEHB – please complain to your congress person about this!

    But as Reservist with Active Duty Contingency orders- we are eligible for Tricare Prime.

    I have read and been told that you may maintain your FEHB paid by the agency while on orders.
    But I have also heard that members have been dropped by FEHB once they enrolled in Tricare.

    My goal is to maintain the FEHB if it is funded by the agency while on orders and Tricare.

    Also- wanting to cover step son who is covered by his mother under her FEHB, however, resides with us.
    If I enroll him in Tricare will he be dropped from his mother’s FEHB plan.

    Any advise is appreciated!
    Thank you in advance.

    • Enrolling in Tricare would have no affect on an employee’s FEHB enrollment. If your agency is willing to pay the premiums while you are on active duty, you’ll have to pay them back when you return to your civilian job. If it doesn’t pay your premiums, you must pay the employee’s share of the premium during the first 12 months of coverage (just as any other employee on leave without pay). You must pay both the employee and government shares, plus an administrative charge of 2 percent of the total premium, for up to 12 additional months that you continue your coverage while on military duty. Your step-son cannot be dropped from his mother’s FEHB enrollment. I don’t know if you can enroll him in Tricare. That question falls outside my area of expertise.

  4. I am a civil service employee and also a military spouse with Tricare Prime. I am considering Tricare Select and federal insurance enrollment just so I can go to the doctors I want without a PCM referral. When you have both Tricare Select and federal insurance as far as you know, will your coverage be 100% of the cost since you have both?

    • We don’t know what Tricare Select covers. As for the Federal Employees Health Benefits program, the benefits vary with the program and level of coverage you elect. You’ll just have to do your homework before you decide to move from Tricare Prime to Tricare Select.

  5. Reg. Thanks for your helpful columns. I’m civil service but retired military with TRICARE. I’ve never enrolled in FEHB. You’ve stated before that to enroll before I retire, I only need to enroll in FEHB during the Open Season that precedes my retirement. Two questions. 1) If I want to retire at the very end of the year 2020, can I wait till the December 2020 window to enroll or should I enroll during this upcoming 2019 window? 2) If I want to then suspend the FEHB to just have the future option, can I immediately suspend it, or do i have to keep it for any length of time before suspending?

    • While waiting to the last minute to enroll seems like an economical thing to do, it’s still a chancy move. If it were me, I’d enroll this year and know that I was covered before retiring.

  6. Reg, I am a gray area retiree, I served 26 years in the National Guard, at 54 years of age I am not eligible to collect a military retired pay. I am currently a federal employee and I am enrolled in FEHB through my federal agency. As a gray area retiree can I enroll in Tricare Retired Reserve plan and keep my FEHB as well? As a federal employee enrolled in FEHB am I eligible to enroll TRR simultaneously or do I need to choose one?

    Eric G

    • No, you don’t have to give it up. You can remain enrolled in both plans. However, when you retire you’ll have the option of suspending your BC/BS coverage in favor of Tricare if you determine that Tricare provides all the benefits you need. By suspending BC/BS rather than cancelling it, you’ll reserve the option of reactivating that plan if you are no longer pleased with Tricare.

    • No, you don’t have to give it up. You can continue to be covered by both Tricare and BC/BS. However, when you retire you’ll be able to suspend – not cancel – your BC/BS coverage if you decide that Tricare is meeting your needs. By suspending BC/BS you be able to reactive it if your needs change and you feel that Tricare no longer meets your needs.

  7. Thank you for your answers. I am retired military and a civil service employee. I did not elect FEHB at first, but was recently married and am considering enrolling in FEHB. If I do, will I still maintain Tricare as well as FEHB? Or does Tricare drop and then when I retire again, just have to option to keep one or the other?

    • You can retain both benefits. However, most when you must have been covered by the FEHB program for the 5 consecutive years carry that coverage into retirement. At that point you have the option of suspending your FEHB coverage in favor of Tricare. That way you can preserve the option of returning to the FEHB program at a later date.

  8. Hello Reg,

    I think I realized an error I made and was hoping for some feedback.

    I am medically retired from active duty, eligible for Tricare Select, and I am a Federal Employee with a FEHB in a HDHP with HSA. For some reason, I did not know, or had forgotten, that I was enrolled in Tricare Select when I was medically retired.

    Question: Can I carry both the FEHB HDHP w/HSA and Tricare Select for the year and decide at next Open Enrollment period to cancel the FEHB plan and keep Tricare Select or should I be taking action now if I am not able to carry both?

    Obviously, it seems silly to pay premiums for the FEHB plan while I pay nothing for Tricare Select so I don’t see the need in carrying both, just a mistake unless there is value added in carrying both.

    Thank you!

    • The last thing you should do is cancel your FEHB coverage. If you did you’d never be able to re-enroll in the program if Tricare Select didn’t work out for you. Unfortunately, you can only suspend your FEHB coverage after you retire from the federal government. As it stands, the only practical option open to you would be to enroll in the least expensive FEHB plan during the upcoming Open Season.

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