A military family (Image: Shutterstock) (Image: Shutterstock)

Lawmakers have included a dental benefits program change that could affect 1.8 million Americans in a giant, must-pass package of defense funding legislation: the conference report for H.R. 5515.

Section 713 would put the managers of the Federal Employees Dental Insurance Program, or FEDVIP, in charge of the military’s TriCare Dental program.

The people who now have TriCare dental coverage — the family members of active-duty military personnel, non-activated members of the National Guard and Reserves, and family members of non-activated members of the Guard and Reserves — would move into FEDVIP.

(Related: TriCare Renews Giant Voluntary Dental Contract)

Both the TriCare Dental program and FEDVIP are voluntary dental plans, meaning that the enrollees themselves pay the premiums.

TriCare Dental managers have been awarding a single contract to one insurer every seven years. United Concordia, a unit of Highmark Inc. of Pittsburgh, has been administering the TriCare Dental program since May 2017.

FEDVIP lets multiple insurers offer voluntary dental and vision plans.

If FEDVIP took over the TriCare Dental program,, United Concordia would probably lose the 1.7 million-enrollee TriCare Dental contract. FEDVIP would likely have United Concordia compete against other companies for the former TriCare Dental enrollees’ business.

H.R. 5515 Conference Report Basics

The H.R. 5515 conference report is a mix of the House and Senate versions of the “John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal 2019″ bill.

The full version of the legislation, and the accompanying explanatory notes, take up 2,552 pages.

Congress has to pass the report to keep the U.S. military going.

Members of the House passed the bill by a 359-54 vote Thursday. The Senate still has to consider the report, but one sign of how strong bipartisan support for the conference report is that House Democrats joined House Republicans in voting for the legislation.

Republicans backed the conference report by a 220-5 vote, and House Democrats backed it by a 139-49 vote.

A copy of the conference report is available here.

TriCare Dental

About 94% of the TriCare Dental program enrollees are in the United States, and about 110,000 are located outside the country, according to  the Military Health System’s annual program evaluation.

The program has 99,218 dentists in its network.

Today, TriCare also serves 1.6 million military retirees through the TriCare Retiree Dental Program. Congress has also passed the legislation needed to move the TriCare Retiree Dental enrollees into FEDVIP in 2019.

For dependents of active-duty military personnel, the monthly premium is $11.10 for a single dependent and $28.87 for a multi-member family.

The cost is $11.10 per month for a member of the Guard or Reserve who is not on active-duty; $27.76 per month for a single dependent of someone with that status; and $72.18 for a multi-member family of someone with that status.

FEDVIP

FEDVIP now has 3.3 million enrollees, and it will gain 1.6 million  more enrollees in January, when the TriCare Retiree Dental users roll into FEDVIP.

The U.S. Office of Personnel Management runs FEDVIP.

The FEDVIP open enrollment period runs from Nov. 12 through Dec. 10.

The list of national carriers on the current FEDVIP dental plan menu includes United Concordia, along with units of Aetna, Delta Dental, FEP BlueDental, GEHA and MetLife.

The list of vision plan providers includes units of Aetna, FEP BlueVision, UnitedHealth Group, and VSP Vision Care.

Other H.R. 5515 Conference Report Provisions

The conference committee eliminated a provision that might have led to advances in dental care for all, by creating a dental research center.

The conference report includes a provision that calls for the TriCare Health plan program to communicate with state prescription drug monitoring programs, to help fight opioid abuse, and to set up an opioid management pilot program.

Another provision calls for the U.S. Government Accountability Office, a congressional think tank, to study the long-term care options available to veterans from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

H.R. 5693

A separate bill, H.R. 5693, could create a medical foster home program for 900 military veterans who suffer for disabling combat injuries, are eligible for military nursing home benefits, and would like to live in the community.

House leaders have placed that bill on a list of items that are noncontroversial and can be considered quickly, without spending much time on floor debate.

— Read TriCare Renews $2.6 Billion Dental Contracton ThinkAdvisor.

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