Tricare and You – Disasters and Emergencies

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.

Written by Cmdr. Paul Fawcett, chief of Medical Administration for Coast Guard’s Office of Health, Safety and Work-Life

As much as we try to plan for them and prepare for them, disasters and emergencies happen. Floods, earthquakes, hurricanes can cause disruption and dislocation to you and your loved ones. During the disaster you may need medical care more than ever. In the event that an emergency does happen, TRICARE takes steps to help you cope.

Disaster Alert

Before you can access any of the emergency provisions TRICARE puts into place for medical care, TRICARE must recognize the emergency and declare a disaster alert. Disaster alerts are posted on the TRICARE Disaster Information page along with instructions as to what benefits are available as a result.

Pharmacy Benefit

If an emergency is declared, TRICARE may authorize you to fill any prescriptions you have early to ensure that you have an adequate supply. If possible you should visit your regular pharmacy provider to get your early refill. If you can’t, visit any TRICARE network provider and take your prescription or pharmacy bottle. If you use TRICARE mail order pharmacy or you have difficulty getting to a network provider, call express scripts at 1-877-363-1303 for assistance.

Provider Waivers

In the event of an emergency you may not be able to see your normal provider. Waivers may be granted by TRICARE for referrals or Primary Care Manager visits outside your normal geographic region or your normal doctor.

Other Options

You may always visit the emergency room for emergency care. However, you should be aware that during disasters emergency rooms are often overwhelmed and have reduced capabilities due to disaster effects on staff and facilities. You should not visit emergency rooms in disaster areas for anything other than serious injury or illness due to these facts.

You may also visit urgent care centers outside the disaster regions for acute, non emergency care. Family members receive two unreferred visits per year, and retirees pay only a small copay. If you need care and have used your unreferred visits, call TRICARE to get a referral.

You may also visit DOD military treatment facilities outside the disaster area for acute or urgent care. Many DOD treatment facilities have Emergency rooms and urgent care clinics. Your military ID will be required to access them. You may need to inform the staff that you are a displaced beneficiary to access their services on a temporary basis.

Active Duty Members

Active duty members often deploy with independent duty health services technicians. If you deploy with that capability you should seek care from your IDHS before going to civilian care. If you do visit a civilian provider while deployed, get copies of your records and ensure they get placed in your Coast Guard medical record when you return to your unit. Also be sure to follow up with your IDHS and/or Coast Guard provider.


For TRICARE issues you may also contact the CG health benefits assistance line at 1-800-9-HBA-BBA or at


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