Is There Health Insurance for Military Spouses Through the VA?

If you're the spouse of an active-duty member of the military, chances are good that you're curious about your healthcare options. After all, many private employers are reducing the scope of their group health insurance plans or doing away with them entirely. According to some studies, the number of employers that offer group health insurance benefits will drop by more than 50 percent during the coming decade.

Unfortunately, this means that millions of American families will be forced to find coverage from other sources. Such coverage is liable to be expensive: Since 2000, health insurance costs have risen by at least 5 percent per year. It's likely that the single-coverage and private group health insurance plans that populate the open health insurance market will continue to become more expensive with each passing year. It's also likely that many of these plans will become less robust and levy higher out-of-pocket charges on their policyholders.

Fortunately, millions of active-duty members of the Armed Forces don't have to worry about this problem. Through a comprehensive health insurance program known as TRICare, military members and their spouses enjoy solid healthcare coverage with minimal out-of-pocket costs. In most cases, active-duty military members' dependent children can receive coverage under TRICare as well.

Once a service member leaves active duty, he or she is still entitled to healthcare under the auspices of the Office of Veterans' Affairs. Known as the "VA," this agency is responsible for administering the hospitals and clinics that have been built specifically for the needs of military veterans. At any given time, hundreds of thousands of former members of the military receive treatment at VA facilities. Additionally, thousands of wounded active-duty service members receive care through the VA system.

Due to recent budget cuts and logistical constraints, the benefits that the VA provides have been circumscribed. In the past, most veterans received gold-plated healthcare coverage that required no out-of-pocket commitments. These days, veterans must meet certain key thresholds to be eligible for such care. Although the rules are subject to change, veterans who have not served in active combat zones often aren't able to receive "free" care through the VA.

While the spouses of former members of the military are entitled to receive health insurance coverage through the VA system, these plans confer few special privileges. If you enroll in one of these plans as a military spouse, you'll need to shoulder market-rate premiums, co-pays and coinsurance costs.

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