Payment glitch hits TRICARE beneficiaries with four-figure monthly premiums

Beneficiaries of the TRICARE military health system in the Eastern U.S. were surprised by eye-popping charges to their credit cards and bank accounts Thursday — amounts that were 100 times what their monthly premiums should have been.

The problem appeared to have originated with a third-party payment processor used by Humana Military, the contractor that serves TRICARE beneficiaries in all states east of the Mississippi River, plus Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma and most of Texas. In effect, the system moved premium amounts two decimal places to the right — turning, for example, what should have been a $50 monthly automatic payment into $5,000.

The Defense Health Agency said the payment processor was working to reverse the errant charges, and that people who were overbilled should see credits to their original payment methods within 48 hours. DHA referred other questions, including how many beneficiaries were affected, to Humana.

In an emailed response to queries from Federal News Network, Humana did not answer that question, but said it “sincerely regrets” the errors.

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“We are working directly with banks to reverse charges before they occur. We pledge that we will do everything we can to ensure that beneficiaries are not adversely affected by this error, including covering overdraft and related fees,” Mark Mathis, the company’s director of corporate communications said in a statement. “We apologize for any inconvenience this has caused and appreciate the patience shown by beneficiaries while we work to correct the problem.”

DHA said the glitch likely would have impacted anyone in the TRICARE East region who pays for their coverage on a monthly basis. That would include most military retirees and some members of the National Guard and Reserve.

Active duty service members and their families, however, would not have been affected, since they do not pay recurring premiums for their coverage.

The Humana payment problem is not the only technical difficulty facing TRICARE users during the busy annual open season for benefit elections.

Since mid-November, the Defense Department website that beneficiaries normally use to change their health plans during the open season window has been offline. Because of that, anyone who wants to change their plan before open season ends on Dec. 9 must do so by mail or phone.

Some beneficiaries took to Twitter to express their frustration:

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