Coronavirus (COVID-19): Important information from Sharp
Doctor's office
Enter your doctor's name to get office information.
Find labs in your network
Enter your primary care doctor's name to find labs in your network.
Find urgent care centers in your network
Enter your primary care doctor's name to find urgent care centers in your network.
Driving Directions
Update Information
Forgot Password

Please enter your e-mail address.

Sharp Health News

Medicare and the military: understanding your coverage

Dec. 6, 2019

Medicare and the military: understanding your coverage
There are over 100,000 active-duty service members in San Diego, and more than 240,000 veterans. That adds up to the largest concentration of military personnel in the nation.

As many of these individuals and their spouses near age 65, they are facing choices about their health care coverage. Many are looking for clarity in the intersecting seas of Medicare and what is offered to them by the military.

To help you understand coverage paths and options, we’ve broken down a few key points:

  1. Medicare-eligible military members can face penalties for late enrollment, and their enrollment in Medicare isn’t automatic.
    For many who become Medicare eligible at age 65, the threat of late enrollment penalties can be intimidating. Active military and spouses are subject to this same penalty risk. Like civilians who are still covered by insurance from an employer or a spouse’s employer, active military and family have the option to delay enrollment in Medicare Part B. But before their active-duty health plan ends, they must enroll in both Parts A and B to make sure they’re covered.

  2. There’s a difference between Tricare and Tricare For Life.
    Tricare is the health care program for the U.S. military and their families. Tricare For Life is Medicare wraparound coverage for Tricare beneficiaries who have Medicare Part A and Part B. In simpler terms, Tricare For Life is a way for Medicare-enrolled Tricare members to continue their coverage. When it comes to coverage, Medicare is charged first for Medicare-covered services. Then, for deductibles and coinsurance, Tricare For Life benefits are applied. Some services not covered by Medicare are also picked up by Tricare For Life.

    A big advantage of Tricare For Life is that it eliminates the need for most Medicare supplements. While civilians may need gap coverage for things like prescriptions, most standard expenses are covered by Part A, Part B and Tricare For Life. However, every situation is different, and some military members may need or want to sign up for extras.

  3. Veterans Affairs (VA) health coverage can be paired with Medicare supplements.
    Some military members choose VA health coverage over Tricare. While Tricare is more comprehensive and offers more choice, VA coverage does have compatibility with private plans. The trick is being eligible, as the government has strict criteria on who can apply, such as length of service.

    If you have VA coverage and would like to continue your plan into retirement, know that your insurance will continue to cover a large portion of your care. For services outside the VA umbrella, you will need additional Medicare coverage. For many, a Medicare Advantage plan that includes prescription drug benefits can offer the extended coverage you need.

    While the VA does cover many prescriptions at a low cost, private prescription drug coverage can close the gap and ensure you’re not forced to pay high drug prices.

  4. Insurance is confusing, but there’s help if you need it.
    Medicare is not always easy to understand. Add military exceptions and options, and the water may seem even murkier. At Sharp, we understand the importance of getting your questions answered so you can choose the coverage best for you. That’s why we offer help with Medicare through in-person classes, online resources and expert advice over the phone.

    You can also contact military offices directly. For VA benefits, visit the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. For Tricare or Tricare For Life questions, visit their contact page.

Learn more about Medicare health insurance at Sharp HealthCare or call 1-800-82-SHARP (1-800-827-4277), Monday through Friday, 7 am to 7 pm.

You might also like:

Choose the doctor who's right for you.

At Sharp, we make it easy to find an exceptional doctor — right where you live and work.

All Categories
Contact Sharp HealthCare
Call us


If this is a life- or limb-threatening emergency, please call 911 immediately.

Email us

Please do not use this form to convey personal or medical information.

How would you like to be contacted?
Date of birth

Find other numbers

View our phone directory

What's This?

These important numbers are located on your billing statement.

Find your Sharp Rees-Stealy account number

Find your Sharp Rees-Stealy account number

Find your Sharp hospital account number

Find your Sharp hospital account number

Find your SharpCare account number

Find your SharpCare account number
What's GDPR?

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) governs the processing of personal information gathered from individuals while they are in the European Union (EU) and parts of the EEA (European Economic Area, which currently includes Iceland, Lichtenstein and Norway).

We are sorry, but we are unable to process hospital price estimates if you live or are travelling within the EU or affiliated nations.

To learn more, call us at 858-499-5901.

What's This?

Many surgery and procedure names sound similar. If possible, please provide the current procedure terminology (CPT) code, which can be found on the order from your doctor.

If you cannot provide the CPT code, please contact your doctor's office for the CPT or a detailed description of services.