How to Maximize Your Benefits with a Medicare Advantage Flex Card

Health Compare

Health Compare
Feb 11, 2023

If you are new to a Medicare Advantage plan that provides you with a flexible spending card also called Flex Allowance, you may be wondering how and where you can use it. A Medicare flex card benefit can help you lower your out-of-pocket costs, but you’ll want to understand the guidelines and any restrictions that may apply.

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What is a Medicare Flex Card?

Some Medicare Advantage plans make it easier to use the plan’s benefits by issuing a flex card that works like a debit card.

Each plan has its own list of approved locations, and the following are just a few examples of places that may be approved for some plans:

  • Walmart
  • Walgreens 
  • CVS
  • Online
  • Doctor’s offices
  • Drug stores

When you use the card at participating locations, the purchase counts against your allowance for the qualifying benefit, avoiding the need to pay upfront and submit a claim for reimbursement. The plan sets a spending limit and determines what expenditures qualify, where you can use the card, and how the card will be funded.

How Do I Qualify for a Medicare Advantage Plan with an Allowance Benefit (Flex Plan)?

Are you wondering how to get a flex card benefit? Flex cards are available only through select Medicare Advantage plans. If a Medicare Advantage plan with a flex card benefit is available in your area, you can enroll during your Initial Enrollment Period or the annual Open Enrollment Period (October 15 to December 7). 

if you have a Medicare Advantage plan and want to switch to another Medicare Advantage plan with a flex card benefit (Flex Allowance), you can also change plans during the annual Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period (January 1 to March 31). Medicare Supplement plans do not offer flex cards.

Are Medicare Advantage Flex Cards Legitimate?

Insurers selling Medicare Advantage plans with flex cards include, but are not limited to, WellCare, Anthem, Aetna and Humana. The plans that include flex cards (flex allowance) may be limited to specific areas of a few states. For example, Humana offers a Medicare Advantage plan with flex card benefits in some parts of Florida. Aetna sells Medicare Advantage flex plans in Pennsylvania and Minnesota. 

While many reputable insurance providers offer flex card benefits, Medicare recipients can be vulnerable to common senior scams. This can include flex cards scams, so be aware of the following:

  • Advertisements that mention Medicare is giving out flex cards. Flex cards are not backed by Original Medicare or any government agency. Only Medicare Advantage plans can issue flex cards, and these plans are sold by private insurance companies.
  • Claims that the flex card is like free money. A flex card is a benefit, and all benefits have a cost that you pay for through premiums, deductibles, coinsurance and copayments. 
  • Callers requesting personal information who say they need your details to explain the flex card benefit. Never provide personal information to unsolicited callers. If you want information about a Medicare Advantage Plan with a flex card benefit, call a licensed insurance agent.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) offers various Medicare fraud reporting options. If you are concerned that you’ve been a victim of fraud, please contact Medicare as soon as possible.

Can You Buy Groceries with Medicare Advantage Flex Cards (Flex Allowance)?

Medicare Advantage flex card eligibility for groceries will vary with the plan. Some plans may require a doctor’s certification of a chronic illness.

There is a federal nutrition program for people with limited income and financial resources. If you qualify for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in your state, you will receive an electronic benefits transfer (EBT) card to purchase eligible food items. Contact your state SNAP office if you think you may qualify. 

The Special Needs Plan (SNP) is a type of Medicare Advantage plan tailored to specific groups of Medicare recipients. Eligible groups include beneficiaries with disabling chronic conditions and those who have both Medicare and Medicaid (dual-eligible). Some SNPs offer a card to help you buy healthy food at participating stores. 

TIP: Learn if you qualify for the Medicare grocery card.

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What Can I Buy With Medicare Advantage Flex Cards (Flex Allowance)?

Qualifying purchases vary with the plan in which you enrolled. 

Check with your specific plan for details, but here are some of the ways you may be able to use a flex card to help you pay for some uncovered medical expenses:

  • Diagnostic services
  • Dental, vision or hearing services
  • Deductibles and copayments
  • OTC medications or prescription drugs
  • Medical equipment
  • Service dog support  
  • Active fitness activities 

Some Medicare Advantage plans with flex card benefits even allow you to purchase healthy groceries.

Plans with Flex Card Benefits’

The following insurers tout the spending options their Medicare Advantage flex card plans offer. If you sign up, be sure to check the criteria and rules for each of the qualifying expenses. These plans are not available in all locations. 

WellCare Flex Card Benefits

After enrollment in WellCare Medicare Advantage, the insurer may send you an activated WellCare Flex Card Visa ready to use and loaded with an annual allowance for dental, vision and hearing services. This applies whether or not the providers are in the plan’s network. 

You may be able to use the card for utilities as well. You cannot use the card for over-the-counter (OTC) products and groceries. You are responsible for the cost of purchases exceeding the balance loaded on the card. 

Anthem Prepaid Card

You may be able to use your Anthem Benefits Prepaid Card for in-store and online purchases within an established spending allowance. Anthem sets the monthly, quarterly, or annual allowances for each type of item. Spending options vary with the policy you purchase and member eligibility. 

The card may be available for over-the-counter health-related products, wholesome groceries, assistive devices (handrails, shower seats and temporary ramps), ADA service dog support, dental care, vision services, hearing devices and services, and fitness membership.  

Aetna Extra Benefits Card

Aetna’s Special Needs Plan for dually eligible beneficiaries (D-SNP) includes an Extra Benefits Card pre-loaded with a quarterly allowance. Rolling over unused balances to the following quarter is not permitted. 

Once you join the plan, Aetna will send you a card, which you need to activate, along with a welcome kit. The kit includes a list of eligible healthcare products and services. You can use the card for healthy groceries and utilities (water, electricity, phone and internet).

Humana Spending Card

Humana Medicare Advantage includes a card loaded with funds for up to three types of allowances. Humana replaced three cards they previously issued (a healthy foods card, OTC card and flex card) with one Humana Spending Card. Covered services include groceries, over-the-counter items, home and personal supplies, rent and utilities, pest control and nonmedical transportation. Healthy Options Allowance portion of the Humana spending card is limited to those on certain needs-based plans or those with certain qualifying conditions.

How Do I Get a Prepaid Medicare Advantage Flex Card?

You can use a plan finder to explore Medicare Advantage plans available in your zip code. If you find plans that offer flex cards, check the maximum spending limit. Compare plans with and without the flex cards to assess the value. 

Plans offering flex cards (flex allowance) may not seem that attractive if they have stringent network requirements, high premiums and excessive out-of-pocket expenses.

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