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By Terri Moon Cronk
DoD News, Defense Media Activity
WASHINGTON, Jan. 15, 2015 - As tax season begins, Defense Department officials want to remind TRICARE beneficiaries of changes in the tax laws, which require all Americans to have health care insurance.
For the first time since the Affordable Care Act passed in 2012, all U.S. citizens, including service members, their families, military retirees, DoD civilians and nonappropriated employees, must report health care coverage on their 2014 taxes, said Mark Ellis, a Defense Health Agency health care operations program analyst.
For this year only, taxpayers will "self-attest" on their 2014 tax forms to each month in which they had health care coverage, he said.
Forms Issued to Military, Civilian Taxpayers
In January 2015, DoD and the services' pay centers will issue military and civilian taxpayers forms that reflect medical coverage, much the same way employees receive their W2s, Ellis said.
"The IRS will require insurers to send that information," Ellis said, adding that IRS is the agency that will assess penalties for those who are not insured on a month-by-month basis.
DoD has more than 250,000 beneficiaries who are eligible for TRICARE, Ellis said, adding that it's up to each service member to make sure their DEERS data base lists Social Security numbers for them and their families, so the 2015 health care tax forms can be sent out.
Meets Minimal Essential Coverage
The act mandates that health care must meet minimum essential coverage, and TRICARE coverage meets that criteria for the majority of service members and their families, Ellis said.
For example, TRICARE, TRICARE Overseas, TRICARE Remote and the Uniformed Services Family Health Plan meet the minimum essential coverage, he added.
Uniformed service members who have questions about TRICARE, the act and the individual coverage mandate can visit the TRICARE website and download the fact sheet on TRICARE and the act, where TRICARE plans are listed with how they match up to minimum essential coverage, Ellis said.
The site also has suggestions for those who need coverage to meet the act's minimum requirements, he noted. That group of individuals could include retired reserve members, select reserve members, young adults up to age 26 and those who leave military service but need transitional coverage, Ellis said.
TRICARE beneficiaries with tax questions should contact the Internal Revenue Service or their tax advisers, he emphasized.
"The experts there can help them," Ellis said.