TRICARE and You: Benefits for college-age dependents

This blog is the most recent in a series helping members of the Coast Guard family understand how to use their TRICARE benefits. The blog series will continue every Monday, right here on Coast Guard All Hands.

Graduation caps tossed in the air

Written by Cmdr. Paul Fawcett

Spring is fast approaching, and with it comes graduation for high school seniors. Before long you’ll be packing up your child to send them off to college, or helping them make other life choices like post high school employment or military service. Be sure your plans account for their medical care.

Is my dependent still covered by TRICARE in college?

If you are an eligible TRICARE beneficiary (active-duty service member or eligible retiree), then your child is covered provided they meet the following guidelines:

  • Your child is under the age of 23
  • Your child is unmarried
  • Your child’s status as a student is reflected in the Defense Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS)
  • To ensure your students TRICARE coverage is extended beyond age 21 you’ll need a letter from the school registrar that certifies your child is enrolled full time in a degree seeking program. You can present this at your military ID card office.


Receiving care while in college

You’ll need to carefully consider TRICARE plan options for your college student. TRICARE Prime is the most affordable plan with the least out of pocket expenses. However, your student will need to be enrolled to a primary care manager and receive treatment from them or have referrals for care from them. This arrangement may be difficult due to the transient nature of many college students.

TRICARE standard is a more expensive option with a deductible and higher co-pays. However, this plan allows your student to see any TRICARE authorized provider, which provides greater flexibility to receive care wherever they are.

Determining how best to manage your child’s medical care while they are in college will partly depend on how far they are from you, their sponsor. If your child is enrolled in TRICARE Prime and attending school close to their primary care manager (PCM), you may want to keep them enrolled to their current doctor for continuity of care. If they are attending school some distance from home you may want to discuss with your child’s PCM about receiving referrals for care needed at school.

You should consider enrolling your student with a new primary care manager in the vicinity of college only if they will reside at school or its vicinity year round, and it is a TRICARE Prime service area. Otherwise if they departed school’s vicinity for holidays and breaks they would not be able to see their doctor.

Your student will be eligible for TRICARE Prime Remote only if they reside with a sponsor who is eligible for TPR. If your student was enrolled in TPR and they move away to school they may enroll in TRICARE Prime or Standard, depending on your decision.


Q: What if my child doesn’t attend college? Are they still eligible for TRICARE coverage?

A: Yes. Coverage for non-student dependents extends to age 21 provided they remain unmarried. They also lose eligibility for TRICARE dependent benefits if they enter the military as they become eligible for TRICARE Prime or TRICARE Reserve Select in their own right.

Q: What identification will my student need to receive care while in college?

A: You should ensure that they have a current military dependent ID. You may also print a TRICARE Prime enrollment card from the TRICARE Beneficiary Web Enrollment site

TRICARE standard enrollees have no enrollment card.

Q: Is TRICARE coverage available for my dependent after age 23, or 21 if they don’t attend college?

A: Yes. You may enroll your dependent in TRICARE Young Adult until age 26 provided they are not enrolled in an employer sponsored health plan. Monthly premium charges and copays do apply for this program.

Q: What if my student receives a health insurance plan as part of their college tuition?

A: TRICARE always pays second to other health insurance. Whatever allowable charges are not covered by the other health insurance may be covered by TRICARE for eligible beneficiaries.

For more information on TRICARE Young Adult, visit the TRICARE website.

For more information on TRICARE for college students, check out the “Choices for College Students” fact sheet.

Do you have questions about the TRICARE benefit? Send us an email, and we will work to get your questions answered!

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