Advertisements around certain Medicare benefits are rife this time of the year during the open enrollment period. One benefit that’s come under the spotlight is a flex card for seniors. Advertisers claim that Medicare offers a free $2,880 card to seniors to spend as they choose.
How truthful are these claims? As we at The Modern Medicare Agency are committed to providing accurate Medicare insights, we delve into the facts behind Medicare’s “flex card,” and whether it’s a viable option for you.
What Is a Medicare Flex Card?
The most important point to clarify is that Original Medicare does not offer the flex card. This payment method is only available with a limited number of private Medicare Advantage providers for certain plans and in specific locations only.
Remember that Medicare is available to those who are 65 years of age or older, and is the United States’ federal health insurance program. However, Medicare is also available to certain individuals who are younger than the minimum age should they have certain disabilities or End-Stage Renal Disease.
What are Medicare Advantage plans?
Medicare Advantage plans offer Medicare beneficiaries an alternative to Medigap. Medicare Advantage plans have lower premiums than Medigap (otherwise known as Medicare Supplement Plans) and is a private Medicare insurance plan that needs to be obtained through a private insurance company. It’s important to remember that you have to stay enrolled in Medicare Part A and B in order to benefit from a Medicare Advantage Plan.
How does it work?
The Medicare Advantage flex card functions like a prepaid debit card. Each Medicare Advantage plan has different amounts, but they usually fall within a few hundred dollars and not in excess of $2,000 as advertised. In 2022, the average preloaded amount is $500 per card.
When paying for a product or service, you swipe your flex card, and the amount is immediately and directly deducted from your account. Unlike traditional payment cards, there is no need for a PIN, and there aren’t any transaction fees.
What can you use it for?
Social media ads claim that the flex card can be used to buy groceries. While there is a small element of truth behind this, it’s largely misleading. The debit card can only be used to buy food by those medically deemed chronically ill.
The average senior citizen can only use the Medicare Advantage flex card to pay for the following:
- Prescription and over-the-counter medication
- Dental, vision, and hearing care
- Insurance copayments and deductibles
- Medical equipment
- Diagnostic devices
The details of what expenses are covered and to what extent vary considerably from plan to plan, so be sure that you know what plan you’re on, or what plan you want to be on so that you don’t miss out on what you need.
How Seniors Can Apply for a Medicare Flex Card
Unlike many adverts lead us to believe, you can’t apply for a flex card from Medicare, as the government-led program doesn’t offer this as a benefit. Instead, you will have to apply for certain private Medicare Advantage insurance plans, for example:
- Anthem Blue Cross
Keep in mind that these providers only offer a flex card for some of their plans and in certain locations only. For example, Humana only offers a Medicare Advantage flex card for some plans and for those living in Florida.
Be Careful of Medicare Flex Card Scams
If you’re planning to apply for a flex card, it’s vital to stay vigilant of scammers targeting seniors during the October–December Medicare Open Enrollment period. The following claims should be treated as warning signs of a potential scam:
- The flex card is offered by an original Medicare or Medicaid plan.
- The card is preloaded with more than $2,000
- You can spend the amount on expenses like gas and clothing.
- The card is available to people anywhere in the country.
If you’re looking for a Medicare flex card, remember that if the promises sound too good to be true, they probably are. Moreover, a flex card should be treated as an added benefit, not the main reason for choosing a Medicare Advantage provider.
If you’re interested in learning more about a flex card and insurance providers that offer this benefit, contact a Medicare broker near you. We’ll be more than happy to help you find the best coverage for your and your family’s needs.
It can be really difficult to know what’s real and what isn’t, especially with so many scams making the rounds. We suggest that you always do some research, or speak to someone who’s been in the industry for a while. Rest assured, we’ll help you get the plans which cover you for what you need the most.