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Proposed Changes in Tricare Prescription Coverage

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The following is a guest post provided by Matt Puettmann, content manager at Veterans United Home Loans, the nation’s leading dedicated provider of military family home loans.


Service for military members is tough regardless of which branch they serve in, and many come back from service with various physical and psychological conditions that require prescriptions drugs for treatment. Unfortunately, while these drugs are often beneficial to the person being treated, they are also likely to lead to a chemical dependency on the drug being prescribed.

To combat the growing number of soldiers dependent on painkillers, Tricare is seeking to implement alternative treatments. Recently, the Department of Defense proposed an initiative that would permit Tricare to cover the cost of drug substitution therapy as needed by those suffering from a dependency on prescription painkillers.

According to an Army study released in 2010, an estimated one in every seven soldiers receives an opiate prescription. That means of the estimated 1.47 million troops in active duty nearly a quarter of a million of them are at risk for an addiction to prescribed painkillers.

For military members on Tricare this would be highly beneficial. Currently, most private health insurance providers will cover the cost of drug substitution therapy, but Tricare does not. If the proposal passes, Tricare will then be allowed to cover medical treatment that would allow the prescription of therapeutic drugs, which are known to combat the effects of other habit-forming prescription drugs. While the therapeutic drugs can also be habit-forming, their monitored use in conjunction with effective counseling has positive effects on reducing drug dependency all together.

Currently, Tricare only offers coverage of Suboxone, which is only needed for intense drug detoxification. With the new rule, Tricare will be able to cover Methadone as well which is a proven medication for the treatment of opiate addiction – which many users of prescription painkillers such as Vicodin and OxyContin are at risk for.

Like Suboxone, Methadone also reduces the physical systems often associated with drug withdrawal, such as tremors, nausea, and cravings. However, the drug is milder than Suboxone, which may be more beneficial to others suffering from prescription drug addiction on a more moderate scale.

If approved, the new proposal will also allow Tricare to cover the expenses of long-term treatment.  Addiction to prescribed painkillers is never an easy habit to break, and by covering the costs of long-term maintenance, more military members will have greater success rates when overcoming their addiction.

The final ruling of the proposed changes will occur on February 27th. If approved, the changes will take effect 90 days from the final ruling.