Some seniors on Medicare get flex cards with their Medicare Advantage plans. See how they work.

Flex cards for seniors on Medicare are a common benefit offered by Medicare Advantage plans. These cards often act as the vehicle for over-the-counter, meal, and grocery benefits. Unfortunately, many Medicare beneficiaries don’t claim their flex card benefits because they can be tricky to understand and use. Medicare Advantage enrollees only use about 30% of their over-the-counter benefits, leaving a collective $5 billion on the table each year. An individual may be missing out on $400-1,000 annually. While many flex cards go unused, they can provide American seniors with a great cash-like benefit to help reduce out-of-pocket spending.

Key Takeaways

  • Flex cards allow Medicare Advantage beneficiaries to access their cash-like benefits, including over-the-counter, grocery, and meal benefits.

  • Not all Medicare Advantage plans offer flex spending cards.

  • Flex card benefits often go unused due to confusion around how to use them.

What are flex cards?

Flex cards are prepaid cards that give you access to benefits provided by your Medicare Advantage plan. Flex cards may be filled to cover the cost of out-of-pocket health and wellness needs, like groceries, over-the-counter needs, and meals. Flex cards are especially helpful for seniors with low incomes and resources, who can benefit significantly from grocery and meal benefits.

What do Medicare flex cards cover?

What your Medicare flex spending card covers depends on your specific plan. The most common flex card benefit is for over-the-counter needs. For over-the-counter flex cards, Medicare recipients can purchase things like over-the-counter medications, bandaids, and first-aid supplies. 

Flex cards may also cover expenses for groceries, meal delivery, and utilities. These benefits are more common for Special Needs Plans (SNPs). 

How do you get a Medicare flex card?

Medicare flex cards are only tied to specific Medicare Advantage plans that provide cash-like benefits, including over-the-counter and grocery allowances. Over-the-counter benefits are incredibly common amongst Medicare Advantage plans, so there’s a good chance there’s a plan available in your area that offers a Medicare Advantage flex card benefit. 

Note: While flex cards can help reduce your out-of-pocket costs, we always recommend you focus on your most important healthcare needs first when you enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan. Added benefits, like flex cards and Medicare giveback programs are nice, but making sure your needs are covered matters most. Make sure your preferred doctors are in-network and that all of your prescriptions are covered by your Medicare Advantage plan. Once you have a list of these plans, you can focus on additional benefits you’d like to have in your plan.

How common are flex cards?

Flex cards give Medicare Advantage enrollees access to cash benefits, like over-the-counter, meal, and grocery benefits. These benefits and the flex cards that come with them are common. 

In 2023, about 87% of Medicare Advantage plans offer over-the-counter benefits. About 71% of plans provide meal benefits. Grocery and meal benefits are more common for Special Needs Plans.

Why don’t flex cards get used?

Flex cards are used by private insurance companies to attract Medicare beneficiaries to their plans. Unfortunately, American seniors often have a difficult time using their flex cards due to difficulty understanding how or when they can use them.

Our Advocate team helps Medicare beneficiaries use their plans better. We help you find new doctors, get the best prices on your prescriptions, and understand complexities, like how to use your flex card benefits. We’ve heard many reasons why planholders don’t use their flex card benefits, including:

  • Fear that their flex card will be denied at the store

  • Difficulty remembering to use their flex card benefit before the end of each quarter

  • Skepticism around the pricing in flex card catalogs

  • Uncertainty about what is and is not covered and where to shop

Don't let your OTC flex card benefits go unused! Find out how much money your plan has, and claim pre-approved items without spending a penny out of pocket. Make the most of your Medicare benefits by downloading the free Chapter App.

Are Medicare flex cards legitimate?

Medicare flex cards offered by Medicare Advantage plans are legitimate, but they are also often difficult to use, making them feel like a scam. Many beneficiaries are excited about their cash-benefits for over-the-counter medications but, due to forgetfulness or misunderstanding, are unable to use them. If you’re having trouble understanding your flex card benefits, we can help! 

Watch out for Medicare flex card scams

While Medicare Advantage flex cards are legitimate, some scammers will also advertise “flex cards for seniors on Medicare.” These advertisements and phone calls will encourage you to visit a website and input your personal information. 

As a consumer, you need to be vigilant. Ignore advertisements about claiming your flex card or getting a flex card from companies you don’t know. If you don’t have a flex card benefit through your Medicare Advantage plan, then ignore phone calls and emails telling you to use your benefit. Finally, when placing orders online, make sure the website is trustworthy. If you’re unsure, do a quick search on the company’s website name.

For example, the website listed in the advertisement pictured doesn't have anything on the website itself, and when you search " reviews," nothing appears. This is a red flag.

Get help using your flex card

If your Medicare Advantage plan has an over-the-counter, meal, or grocery benefit, but you’re not sure how to access it, contact your insurance carrier directly to get help.

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