Some Medicare Advantage beneficiaries receive Medicare flex cards, pre-paid debit cards for qualifying expenses, as part of their benefits. The U.S. government does not issue Medicare flex cards. This benefit is only available on select Medicare Advantage plans, a private alternative to Medicare.
Traditional Medicare does not offer flex cards. Certain Medicare Advantage plans provide beneficiaries with flex cards that can pay for qualifying goods and services.
Plans offering a flex card typically supply a quarterly or annual allowance. On average, Medicare flex cards contain $500 of debit, and it is rare to receive more, according to Medicare FAQ.
While plans differ in what beneficiaries may use the debit to cover, coverable expenses may include the following:
- Over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription medications
- A grocery allowance for healthy food, such as whole fruits, vegetables, and proteins
- Co-payments for dental, hearing, and vision appointments
- Eyeglasses and contact lenses
- Hearing aids
- OTC medical supplies
The Medicare flex card will not cover all expenses. Beneficiaries cannot use these cards to pay for processed food, restaurant meals, electricity, or rent. The plan administrator must approve the items for which the beneficiary can use the card.
Who Qualifies for the Flex Card?
You are eligible for a Medicare flex card if you qualify for a Medicare Advantage Plan with a flex card benefit. To enroll in Medicare Advantage, you must:
- be eligible for traditional Medicare Part A and Part B.
- be 65 years or older or have a qualifying disability. (Those who receive Social Security disability benefits for at least two years become eligible for Medicare.)
- have paid taxes into the Medicare trust funds through your work or a spouse’s work.
In addition to meeting the general eligibility requirements for traditional Medicare, whether you can obtain a Medicare Advantage plan with a flex card could depend on your location. Medicare Advantage plans have specific service areas where they operate.
Privately run Medicare plans are common. The Kaiser Family Foundation reports that more than 28 million people were enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan in 2022, constituting almost half of the eligible Medicare population at 48 percent. These plans accounted for 55 percent of all federal Medicare spending. In 2022, the average beneficiary could choose from 39 Medicare Advantage plans, though not all of these plans offer a debit card benefit.
Medicare Advantage Considerations
While Medicare Advantage may offer additional benefits compared to traditional Medicare, it can also be more expensive. Depending on the situation, the plan’s cost might not be worth the flex card benefit.
If you are considering enrolling in a Medicare Advantage plan, be wary of predatory marketing tactics.
Another cause for concern regarding Medicare Advantage plans is denial of coverage for necessary medical procedures/testing. Details on this can be found here:
Misleading Claims About Medicare Flex Cards
According to AARP, some advertisements present misleading claims about Medicare Advantage flex cards. These advertisements say that Medicare beneficiaries could receive a flex card with up to thousands of dollars in funds from the U.S. government to spend on anything they wish. As they prey on consumers, these ads direct viewers to a website requesting personal information, such as Social Security, bank account, and credit card numbers.
A similar scam claims to provide individuals with new Medicare cards but takes personal information for wrongful use. If you need a replacement card, you can call Medicare (800-633-4227) or download the card from your Medicare account. No representative from Medicare will call you to send you a new card.
To stay safe from scammers, keep the following in mind.
- You will not receive a valid flex card if you have traditional Medicare, as this program does not offer such debit cards. Anyone offering you a new Medicare card is likely a predator.
- If you have Medicare Advantage, review your plan to determine whether a flex card is part of your benefits. Remember that it is unlikely the allowance will be in the thousands of dollars.
Contact an Elder Law Attorney
If you are eligible for Medicare, meet with a qualified elder law attorney to discuss whether a Medicare Advantage plan with a flex card is right for you.
An attorney can help you make decisions and protect yourself.