You may have seen advertisements on TV from Medicare companies touting “Flex Cards” that provide you money to spend on various benefits including groceries and utilities. So, what are Medicare Flex Cards and what how can you get one?
What is a Medicare Flex Card?
Medicare Flex Cards are a form of ‘additional’ benefit provided by certain Medicare Advantage (or Part C) plans. The Flex Card is often a prepaid debit card (such as a visa) we with pre-approved amount loaded onto the card that can be used for payment for certain benefits.
What benefits do you get with a Flex Card?
Its important to note upfront that a Flex Card is not a card that you get to spend on anything you want.
Flex Cards cover a variety of services that can cover differ by plan you choose but the more common examples include dental, hearing and vision care – above and beyond what is under the core plan benefits.
- For example: A plan may have a $1,500 dental limit in the core plan benefits, it may also have a flex card of $500 which can be spent on either dental, hearing and vision benefits in addition the basic $1,500. This means that your total benefit – assuming you spent all the Flex Card allowance on dental – is $2,000.
You simply swipe the card to pay for services received at a dental, vision or hearing provider. The transaction will be approved if you are eligible, the card is active, and funds are available.
Some Medicare Advantage plans are expanding the approved spend to items like:
- Approved foods
- Over-the counter (OTC) items
- Utility bills, rent or mortgage payments
These allowance types and amounts vary by plan and location.
How much do I get to spend?
The amount of money on a Flex Card varies depending on the specific program offered by the private company issuing the card. Some cards may have a set amount of money loaded onto them, while others may have a spending limit or be rechargeable. It is important to check with your plan provider to understand the specifics of your Flex Card program.
The most common is typically an annual limit on the spend which can range from $250 – $1,000 and potentially more depending on the type of plan you enroll in.
How to obtain Medicare Flex Cards?
To obtain a Medicare Flex Card, you must be enrolled in Medicare and have a Medicare Advantage Plan that includes the Flex Card as a benefit.
It’s important to note that plans with Flex Cards are not available in all areas of the country and not all plans will have the Flex Card benefit as it is up to the carrier to provide it.
If you are currently on a Medicare plan that does not have a Flex Card but want to consider getting one, you should remember that you are only allowed to switch plans during specific enrollment windows – typically the Annual Enrollment Period (AEP) between October 15 and December 7, unless you qualify for a special enrollment period.
Should I get Flex Card?
Flex Cards are an additional benefit for Medicare Advantage plans and should be treated that way. While it may be attractive to find a plan that has one, it’s most important you get the right coverage to cover your medical and hospital expenses rather than to optimize around getting the Flex Card benefit.
For example, it is more important that you ensure that your doctors are covered in network and/or your prescriptions are covered at the lowest cost as not having these could mean that your out-of-pocket costs are hundreds if not thousands of dollars more than they should be (offsetting the benefit of the Flex Card).
That being said, if there are one or more plans that do meet your health requirements – shop away to find the best Flex Card benefit for you!
It’s important to keep in mind that Flex Cards are an additional benefit and should not be the sole reason for choosing a Medicare Advantage plan. The primary focus should be on selecting a plan that provides adequate coverage for your medical and hospital expenses. If you find that multiple plans meet your health requirements, then it may be worth considering the Flex Card benefits as an additional factor. It’s also worth noting that the specifics of Flex Card programs can vary widely depending on the plan and location, so it’s important to review the details of each plan carefully.