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.
A Medicare flex card covers a variety of additional benefit healthcare services. While your Medicare flex card isn’t used for every healthcare or health-related cost, it’s a useful tool with a number of supplementing benefits, depending on the Medicare plan you have.
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) with a pre-approved amount loaded onto the card that can be used to pay for certain benefits.
What benefits do you get with a flex card?
The benefits associated with a Medicare flex card can vary depending on the specific program or plan offering it. However, in general, here are common examples of benefits that individuals may access with a flex card:
- Groceries: Many Medicare flex cards allow beneficiaries to use funds for purchasing groceries. This can be particularly helpful for covering the cost of nutritious food items.
- Utilities: Some flex cards may be used to pay for essential utilities such as electricity, heating, and water bills. This helps individuals maintain a comfortable living environment.
- Transportation: In certain cases, Medicare flex cards may cover transportation expenses, including costs related to getting to medical appointments or pharmacies.
- Over-the-Counter (OTC) items: Some programs allow the purchase of over-the-counter medications and health-related products using the flex card, offering additional support for healthcare needs.
- Health and wellness services: Certain flex cards may provide access to health and wellness services, such as fitness classes or preventive care programs, promoting overall well-being.
- Personal care items: Funds from a flex card can often be utilized for purchasing personal care items, including hygiene products and other essentials.
- Dental and vision services: Depending on the program, a flex card might cover expenses related to dental and vision services, including exams, procedures, and necessary products.
Not every plan will have all of these benefits, and some benefits may require you to meet certain eligibility requirements which may include proving that you have a ‘chronic condition’.
It’s important for individuals to review the specific terms and conditions of their Medicare flex card program or plan to understand the full scope of available benefits. Additionally, eligibility criteria and covered services may vary, so it’s advisable to contact the specific Medicare provider or program administrator for accurate and personalized information.
How much do I get to spend with a flex card?
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 get your Medicare flex card
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.
flex cards are not an optional “add-on.” Your plan will either have it or not, so if you are interested in flex card benefits you need to bring this up to the licensed agent that is helping you.
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 a 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.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is it true that Medicare offers a flex card that provides up to $2,880 in benefits?
No, traditional Medicare itself doesn’t offer this benefit. In certain ZIP codes, Medicare Advantage (Part C) plans do offer these cards as an extra benefit. The amount of benefit will vary based on your chosen insurance company, plan, and location.
Does Original Medicare offer flex cards?
No, Original Medicare does not provide you this benefit. You can only get a flex card with Medicare Advantage plans.
Does my Medicare Supplement plan offer flex cards?
No, Medicare Supplement (Medigap) plans do not provide you this benefit. You can only get a flex card with Medicare Advantage plans.
Can you use your Medicare flex card for groceries?
Depending on the insurance company and your eligibility, your plan may allow you to use your flex card benefits for certain healthy food items.
Can I buy over-the-counter (OTC) items from the store using my flex card benefit?
Potentially yes, if your Medicare Advantage plan allows over-the-counter items as part of the flex benefit. Not all cards have the same benefits. Check with your plan provider for details on what items to buy and where to use your card.
How do I know if my Medicare Advantage plan offers a flex card?
Speak to an independent licensed insurance agent like CoverRight to help you identify a plan that’s right for you.