How to Use TRICARE When There Are No Medical Services on Base

Have you ever been stationed somewhere that doesn’t offer medical services on base or post for dependents? If you have, you know that it can be a dizzying and frustrating experience. That’s why we’ve decided to clear the air with a quick guide to getting medical services when you’re left to fend for yourself. (Note: This article covers TRICARE, not U.S. Family Health Plan.)

Moving In

When you find out there aren’t on base/post medical facilities at your next assignment, don’t panic. The initial process will be the same.

  1. Until you’ve found your new home, your TRICARE coverage will remain intact, just as it was at your previous duty station. If you need to use any services, whether you’re traveling in the U.S. or overseas, you can watch a video from TRICARE to find out what to do next. You can also call the nurse advice line free of charge (unless you fall under the U.S. Family Health Plan) at 1-800-874-2273.
  2. Start by contacting your current TRICARE region (with your sponsor’s SSN or DOD benefits number, as well as your own) to tell them where you are headed. They’ll either help you find a new Primary Care Manager (if you’re staying in the same region), or they’ll transfer your information to your new region. Your new region will follow up with you after you arrive.
  3. Update DEERS to your new address and assess whether or not your TRICARE eligibility has changed.

Routine Medical AppointmentsTRICARE

Here’s what you need to know for your usual appointments:

  1. Once your TRICARE plan is confirmed and transferred, you’ll be given a Primary Care Manager (PCM), just as you would at any other assignment. However, you have the right to change your PCM. Most of your medical appointments will start with this doctor, so be sure to choose someone you like and trust.
  2. Contact your new PCM and send his or her office your medical records so that they have them on file for your first appointment.
  3. You can make your annual well woman exam appointment directly with an eligible OB/GYN, but for any other specialist appointments, you’ll first need to obtain a referral from your PCM.

Urgent or Emergency Medical Situations

Unless you have TRICARE Prime, you can visit a TRICARE  authorized urgent care provider. An authorized provider is one who is licensed by the state, accredited by a national organization, or that meets other standards and is certified by TRICARE.

If you have TRICARE Prime, you may go to an authorized urgent care provider, without a referral up to two times during the fiscal year. If you need to go to urgent care more than two times, you may do so, as long as you a) obtain a referral from your PCM prior to going, or b) call the nurse advice line at 1-800-874-2273 to obtain a referral number, which will act as a placeholder until you can contact your PCM (be sure to contact your PCM at the earliest possible opportunity if you go this route).

Vision & Dental

Vision and dental services are often restricted to active duty service members at smaller military installations. The good thing is that they are relatively easy to access for dependents at off-base/post locations. Here’s how to find your provider.

To find an optometrist:

  1. Visit Tricare’s website and select your region from the “Network Providers” box.
  2. Select “Medical Specialists” and enter your zip code.
  3. Select “Optometrist” and hit search. You can see which providers other spouses have recommended or choose one yourself. Either way, be sure that the provider offers the service you are looking for before scheduling an appointment.

To find a dentist:

  1. Visit this site and enter your zip code in the box labeled “Find a Dentist” at the bottom right.
  2. See which dentists other spouses recommend in our Assignment 411 Database.