TRICARE Plan Options for Young Adults


Graduation season is upon us. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 2.96 million students are expected to earn their associate’s or bachelor’s degree this year. But celebrations look different. Due to COVID-19 and social distancing, high school and college graduates aren’t gathering in auditoriums wearing caps and gowns. Still, as they age, it’s good to know that TRICARE transitions with your kids as they become adults. Take a closer look at TRICARE and other plan options and help your young adult maintain health coverage.

Biological, step-children, and adopted children are eligible for TRICARE until age 21, as long as they remain unmarried and their sponsor remains TRICARE-eligible. Eligibility for TRICARE extends up to age 23 for unmarried children of TRICARE-eligible sponsors if both:

  • The child is a college student enrolled in a full-time course of study at an approved institution of higher learning
  • The sponsor provides over 50% of the child’s financial support

TRICARE Qualifying Life Events

A TRICARE Qualify Life Event (QLE) is a certain change in your life, which may mean different TRICARE health plan options are available to you and your family members. Examples of QLEs includes children becoming adults, going away to college, or moving. After a QLE, you can make eligible changes to your TRICARE health plan within 90 days of the date of the QLE.

If your child is going away to college or moving, have them use the Compare Plans Tool to see what plan options are available. When your child becomes an adult, they may be eligible for TRICARE Young Adult (TYA).

Eligibility and TYA

TYA is a plan for qualified adult children after their eligibility for regular TRICARE ends. Qualifying young adults can purchase TYA anytime. But they must show as eligible in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System. TYA coverage includes medical and pharmacy benefits. But it doesn’t include dental coverage.

Your child can purchase TYA if he or she is:

  • An unmarried, adult child of an eligible uniformed service sponsor
  • At least age 21, but not age 26 (see other restrictions)
  • Ineligible to enroll in his or her own employer-sponsored health plan
  • Not otherwise eligible for other TRICARE program coverage
  • Not a uniformed service sponsor

As described in the TRICARE Young Adult Program Fact Sheet, TYA is a premium-based plan. To participate, your young adult must pay monthly premiums. To see current costs, check out the TRICARE Compare Cost Tool or TRICARE Costs and Fees Sheet.

“Before purchasing TRICARE Young Adult coverage, a young adult should review other health care options,” said Debra Fisher with the TRICARE Policy and Benefits Office at the Defense Health Agency. “They may qualify for their employer’s health coverage or find choices through the Health Insurance Marketplace.”

 Another option for young adults who may not qualify for TYA is the Continued Health Care Benefit Program. This plan provides temporary health coverage for 18 to 36 months after losing TRICARE.

“The Continued Health Care Benefit Program acts as a bridge for those who are transitioning from having military health benefits to a new civilian health plan,” said Fisher.

Enrolling in TYA

If your child qualifies for TYA, you may purchase coverage at any time. There are four ways to purchase TYA coverage (online, phone, fax, and mail). If you enroll by fax or mail, download the TRICARE Young Adult Application and submit the form to your regional contractor.

Learn more about TRICARE coverage for young adults and help your young adult take command of their health care. For more information on TYA, download the TRICARE Young Adult Program Fact Sheet.

At the time of posting, this information is current. For the most recent information, contact your TRICARE contractor or local military hospital or clinic.

Last Updated 5/29/2020