Terry Turner, writer and researcher for RetireGuide
  • Written by
    Terry Turner

    Terry Turner

    Senior Financial Writer and Financial Wellness Facilitator

    Terry Turner has more than 30 years of journalism experience, including covering benefits, spending and congressional action on federal programs such as Social Security and Medicare. He is a Certified Financial Wellness Facilitator through the National Wellness Institute and the Foundation for Financial Wellness and a member of the Association for Financial Counseling & Planning Education (AFCPE®).

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    Lee Williams
    Lee Williams, senior editor for RetireGuide.com

    Lee Williams

    Senior Financial Editor

    Lee Williams is a professional writer, editor and content strategist with 10 years of professional experience working for global and nationally recognized brands. He has contributed to Forbes, The Huffington Post, SUCCESS Magazine, AskMen.com, Electric Literature and The Wall Street Journal. His career also includes ghostwriting for Fortune 500 CEOs and published authors.

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    Jerrad Prouty, Medicare Expert & RetireGuide Reviewer

    Jerrad Prouty

    Licensed Agent at Insuractive

    Jerrad Prouty is a licensed agent at Insuractive with a specialization in selling Medicare insurance. He is licensed to sell insurance in more than 15 states.

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  • Published: October 19, 2020
  • Updated: November 22, 2022
  • 4 min read time
  • This page features 8 Cited Research Articles
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A licensed insurance professional reviewed this page for accuracy and compliance with the CMS Medicare Communications and Marketing Guidelines (MCMGs) and Medicare Advantage (MA/MAPD) and/or Medicare Prescription Drug Plans (PDP) carriers’ guidelines.

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How to Cite RetireGuide.com's Article

APA Turner, T. (2022, November 22). Tricare For Life and Medicare. RetireGuide.com. Retrieved December 4, 2022, from https://www.retireguide.com/medicare/basics/coordination-of-benefits/tricare/

MLA Turner, Terry. "Tricare For Life and Medicare." RetireGuide.com, 22 Nov 2022, https://www.retireguide.com/medicare/basics/coordination-of-benefits/tricare/.

Chicago Turner, Terry. "Tricare For Life and Medicare." RetireGuide.com. Last modified November 22, 2022. https://www.retireguide.com/medicare/basics/coordination-of-benefits/tricare/.

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What Is Tricare for Life?

Tricare is the health care program for members of the U.S. uniformed services, retirees, and their families. It provides comprehensive coverage including health, prescription and dental plans.

Tricare for Life (TFL) is extended health insurance from Tricare designed to work with Medicare. It is an option for people who already have Tricare — or are eligible for it — and who have Medicare Part A and Part B.

There are no restrictions on your age or where you live. Tricare for Life is available worldwide to those who meet Tricare and Medicare eligibility requirements.

Tricare for Life Enrollment
There are no enrollment forms or fees for Tricare for Life. If the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS) shows that you are eligible for Tricare, are entitled to Medicare Part A and that you have Medicare Part B, you are automatically covered under Tricare for Life. You should keep your DEERS info up to date and you must pay Medicare Part B premiums.
Source: Tricare

When you receive health care in the United States and its territories, Medicare pays first and Tricare for Life will pay the remaining costs. But if you seek health care outside the U.S. and its territories, TFL is the primary payer — meaning it pays first.

Medicare generally does not pay for medical care you receive outside the U.S. and its territories.

How Does Tricare for Life Work with Medicare

Tricare for Life is intended to reduce your out-of-pocket health care costs, including prescription drug expenses and some copayments and deductibles for Medicare. It also helps pay if you need health care while traveling overseas.

How Tricare and Medicare Pay Your Health Care Costs

With both Medicare and TFL, you can seek care at any Medicare participating provider. You can seek care through a non-participating provider as well, but Medicare will only cover the Medicare approved cost. You can also seek care at any military hospital, but on a space-available basis only.


What You Pay with Both Medicare and Tricare for Life

There are no enrollment fees for either program. But you have to pay the monthly Medicare Part B premium — $164.90 in 2023 — to participate in both Medicare and Tricare for Life.

You may also have to pay some out-of-pocket costs in certain situations.

Your Out-of-Pocket Costs with Medicare and TFL
Health Care ServicesYour Share of Costs
Medical services covered by Medicare but not TricareMedicare deductibles, copayments or coinsurance
Medical services covered by Tricare but not MedicareTricare deductibles, copayments or coinsurance
Medical procedures not covered by either Tricare or MedicareEntire cost
Health care services covered by both Medicare and TricareYou have no out-of-pocket expenses
Have you selected your 2023 Medicare plan?
Maximize your Medicare savings with a plan from GoHealth. Annual Enrollment is open until December 7th.

Prescription Drug Coverage with Medicare and Tricare for Life

Medicare requires you to have prescription drug coverage. Tricare for Life provides the required creditable drug coverage so you don’t have to buy a Medicare Part D prescription drug plan.

But you are free to buy a Part D plan if you want. There are some advantages to having both.

TFL has its own drug formulary — a list of drugs it covers which may change from year to year. It may not cover some drugs that a Medicare Part D plan would.

Are Your Drugs Covered?
You can use the Tricare formulary search tool to find out if your prescriptions are covered by Tricare for Life.
Source: Tricare

Tricare for Life only covers prescriptions written by doctors or other health care providers at Veterans’ Administration (VA) hospitals or other approved facilities.

TFL also requires you to use military pharmacies, its mail-order pharmacy or retail pharmacies in its network. If you use non-network pharmacies, you have to pay full price for drugs up front and then seek reimbursement from Tricare.

A Medicare Part D drug plan may give you more options to receive prescriptions from private sector doctors and pick up prescriptions at local retail pharmacies.


Tricare for Life and Medicare Advantage Plans

Tricare for Life is designed to work with Original Medicare — Medicare Part A and Part B. You can also use it with Medicare Advantage plans, but there are certain things to consider first.

Medicare Advantage plans are sold by private insurers that contract with Medicare. They are required to cover everything that Original Medicare covers. But they may offer additional benefits such as vision, hearing, prescription drug and dental coverage.

Medicare Advantage plans have their own network of health care providers to keep their costs and yours lower. If you choose to use health care providers outside your plan’s network, you may have to pay more out-of-pocket costs.

This may limit your health care options compared to TFL and Original Medicare.

Plans may also include prescription drug coverage, which you already have under Tricare for Life. If you don’t want to pay for the dual coverage, you can shop for a Medicare Advantage plan without prescription coverage.

You should check your Tricare for Life Handbook and talk with the Medicare Advantage plan’s administrator before deciding on a Medicare Advantage plan.

Last Modified: November 22, 2022

8 Cited Research Articles

  1. U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. (2022, September 27). 2023 Medicare Parts A & B Premiums and Deductibles 2023 Medicare Part D Income-Related Monthly Adjustment Amounts. Retrieved from https://www.cms.gov/newsroom/fact-sheets/2023-medicare-parts-b-premiums-and-deductibles-2023-medicare-part-d-income-related-monthly
  2. Tricare. (2020, September 1). How Tricare for Life Eligibility, Enrollment Works. Retrieved from https://tricare.mil/CoveredServices/BenefitUpdates/Archives/01_28_20_How_TRICARE_For_Life_Eligibility_Enrollment_Works
  3. Tricare. (2020, January 16). Filling Prescriptions with Tricare: You’ve Got Options. Retrieved from https://www.tricare.mil/CoveredServices/BenefitUpdates/Archives/01_16_20_Filling_Prescriptions_With_TRICARE
  4. Health Net Federal Services. (2019, October). Tricare and Medicare under Age 65. Retrieved from https://www.hnfs.com/content/hnfs/home/tw/bene/res/beneficiary-education-materials/tricare_for_lifeandmedicare.html
  5. Health Net Federal Services. (2019, October). Tricare and Medicare Turning Age 65. Retrieved from https://www.hnfs.com/content/hnfs/home/tw/bene/res/beneficiary-education-materials/tricare_for_lifeandmedicare.html
  6. Tricare. (2017, December 19). Becoming Medicare-Eligible. Retrieved from https://www.tricare.mil/medicare
  7. California Health Advocates. (2009, February 26). People with Medicare and Tricare for Life. Retrieved from https://cahealthadvocates.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/F-002-CHAFactSheet.pdf
  8. Military.com. (n.d.). Tricare for Life. Retrieved from https://www.military.com/benefits/tricare/retiree/tricare-for-life.html