Sens. Kelly, Murkowski, Portman, Warren, Tester Introduce Legislation to let Children of Servicemembers Stay Until Age 26

65 years after creation of TRICARE, Health Care Fairness for Military Families Act would bring military insurance in line with private plans

Today, Senators Mark Kelly, Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Rob Portman (R-OH), and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Jon Tester (D-MT) introduced the Health Care Fairness for Military Families Act, bipartisan legislation that would allow young adults to stay on their parent’s TRICARE plan until they are 26 without a premium increase – a critical lifeline as our nation works to overcome the COVID-19 pandemic. The foundation for TRICARE was laid 65 years ago this week through passage of the Dependents Medical Care Act. Today, TRICARE is a Department of Defense health insurance program that serves 9.6 million active duty and retired servicemembers, and their families. The Health Care Fairness for Military Families Act would bring TRICARE plans in line with private insurance plans. 

A companion bill was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives in January by Rep. Elaine Luria (D-VA-2) and Rep. Michael Waltz (R-FL-6).

“Servicemembers and their families have earned high-quality, affordable health care, and there is no reason that TRICARE shouldn’t offer the same benefits as private insurance. Allowing children of servicemembers to stay on their parents’ insurance until they’re 26 will help countless military families and couldn’t be more important as we come out of this pandemic and our economy recovers,” said Senator Mark Kelly.

“Under current law, most military dependents are only allowed to remain on their parents’ insurance policy until age 21, while non-military dependents are afforded the opportunity to remain on insurance until age 26. It isn’t right that simply growing up in a military family leaves these young people on unequal ground with their civilian counterparts,” said Senator Murkowski. “The 21-26 year old population already faces high unemployment rates and now in light of COVID-19, people of all ages are facing additional financial strain. This legislation will allow military dependents to stay on their parent’s insurance plan until they are 26 without a premium increase—a critical lifeline as our nation works to overcome the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“Service members and their families deserve the same access to health care benefits as civilians,” said Senator Portman. “This bill would allow for people under the age of 26 to stay on their family’s TRICARE plan, just as the ACA allows for in civilian healthcare, saving some military families hundreds of dollars a month in costly premiums.”

“All three of my brothers served in the military, and I understand the incredible sacrifices servicemembers and their families make every day to keep our country safe. It is our job to ensure military families have access to good, affordable health care, and that includes the children of servicemembers up to the age of 26,” said Senator Warren.

“Ensuring our nation’s servicemembers and their families have access to the same affordable health care as folks with private insurance is a no-brainer,” said Senator Tester. “The fact is that children of servicemembers feel the unique impacts of their parents’ military careers and need the same access to care as their civilian peers. Our bipartisan bill allows every military child under the age of 26 to continue receiving steady coverage under their parents’ plan, enabling these young adults to finish school or start their careers without worrying about what happens if they get sick.” 

“Today, most young adults either can’t afford coverage, or their employer doesn’t provide them with coverage. This puts TRICARE beneficiaries at a bigger disadvantage as their age cut off is much earlier. I am thankful to Senator Kelly for introducing this important legislation, which will make a big difference for my family and so many others,” said Rebecca Villalpando, U.S. Navy Veteran and Commissioner of the Arizona Veterans Advisory Commission.

“While serving in the Army for 22 years, I met many military families and was always impressed by their commitment to service. It would only be fair to support all eligible family members with the extension of TRICARE healthcare benefits up to the age of 26. All servicemembers sacrifice so much in defense of this great country; it makes moral sense to fully support the Healthcare Fairness for Military Families Act of 2021,” said Dora Peralta, US Army (Retired MSG), Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 836.

Under current law, TRICARE dependents can stay on their parents’ policy until age 21, unless dependents meet specific requirements that would extend coverage only until age 23 or out of school. The 21-26 year old population has a high unemployment rate, and without this coverage military dependents are left on unequal footing compared to their civilian counterparts, who can stay on a parent’s plan until age 26. 

Senator Kelly’s legislation would bring equity to TRICARE beneficiaries by bringing eligibility for dependents in line with that offered by private insurance plans. Under the Affordable Care Act ACA, children up to age 26 can remain on their parents’ health insurance plans at no additional out-of-pocket cost to the dependent.

The legislation is supported by the Air Force Sergeants Association; Army Aviation Association of America; Association of Military Surgeons of the United States; Blinded Veterans of America; Commissioned Officers Association of the U.S. Public Health Service, Inc.; Enlisted Association of the National Guard of the United States; Fleet Reserve Association; Gold Star Wives of America; Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA); Jewish War Veterans of the United States of America; Marine Corps League; Marine Corps Reserve Association; Military Chaplains Association of the United States of America; National Military Family Association; Non Commissioned Officers Association of the USA; Reserve Organization of America; Service Women’s Action Network; Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors; United States Army Warrant Officers Association; USCG Chief Petty Officers Association; Veterans of Foreign Wars; VetsFirst United Spinal Association; and Vietnam Veterans of America.

For the full bill text, click HERE.