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What Is a Medicare Flex Card: Benefits, How It Works, and More

Written by 
Lacey Ramburger

Article at a glance

  • Medicare Flex cards are pre-paid debit cards that can contribute towards specific medical and health-related expenses.
  • Flex cards are not provided by Original Medicare and are only available through select Medicare Advantage Plans.
  • Flex cards have varying amounts, spending limits, and terms for their usage depending on the provider.

What is a Medicare Flex Card?

Medicare Flex cards are preloaded debit cards linked to a Flexible spending account that allows beneficiaries to pay for eligible expenses, such as medical costs, dental care, certain over-the-counter products, and more.

Despite the name of the Medicare Flex card, this benefit is not a card through Original Medicare coverage. Flex cards are distributed through a Medicare Advantage plan. Private Medicare Advantage plans, or Medicare Part C, are purchased through private insurance companies as an alternative to Original Medicare. Not all Medicare Advantage plans provide Flex card benefits.

What Does a Flex Card Cover?

Flex cards are preloaded with money but can only be used for certain approved expenses. The benefits, amount of money, and uses of the Flex card will vary depending on your Medicare Advantage Plan.

Medical Care

In most cases, many Flex card benefits may include:

  • Dental benefits: dental care such as fillings, oral surgery, and preventative oral care
  • Vision: eyeglass frames and prescription lenses, eye exams, and contact lenses
  • Hearing: hearing aids and repairs

Over-the-Counter (OTC) Medical Supplies

In many cases, Flex cards will cover certain OTC supplies, including:

  • Cotton swabs/​balls
  • Bandages
  • Syringes
  • Hygiene products
  • First aid supplies

Medications

Flex cards can also cover certain medications, such as:

  • OTC pain relievers (Tylenol, Advil, etc.)
  • Antacids (Tums, Pepto Bismol, etc.)
  • Vitamins
  • Cough syrup
  • Some prescription medications

Groceries

For those who have chronic conditions, Flex cards can be used to contribute to grocery expenses. This varies depending on plan and state, but an allowance is typically set aside to help beneficiaries afford healthy food and produce options to improve their diets. This benefit doesn’t cover processed or prepared meals.

In some cases, the Flex card can also cover meal delivery plans when you are recovering from a hospital stay. The threshold for this is usually limited to four weeks.

Other Benefits

In some cases, Medicare Flex cards may include other benefits such as:

  • Medical transportation: money allotted for medical travel, such as subway or rideshare services.
  • Wellness programs: mental health expenses, such as therapy in-person or online talk groups, and alternative therapies, such as acupuncture or chiropractic services. 
  • Fitness: allowances for equipment needed for golf, tennis, and other sporting memberships, gym memberships, and other fitness classes.

Note: Flex cards will have different benefits or options, so check with your provider insurance company to know what their Flex card covers.

How Does a Flex Card Work?

The Flex card for seniors is preloaded with a specific amount, which your provider determines. This card can be used on eligible products at qualifying locations. When purchasing the items, you will use the debit card, and the amount will be used toward qualifying purchases.

Some cards are loaded with smaller amounts at different times throughout the year, while others may have the entire year’s amount loaded all at once.

Flex Card Eligibility

Original Medicare does not provide Flex cards, so you must qualify for a Medicare Advantage plan for the possibility of a Flex card.

To be eligible for a Flex card, your specific Medicare Advantage plan must provide it. Not all Medicare Advantage plans include this benefit.

Additionally, some Medicare Advantage plans only provide Flex cards to specific people, such as those with chronic illnesses.

Types of Medicare Advantage Flex Cards

There are two different types of Flex cards:

  • Upfront Allowance: the prepaid card will contain the total benefit amount at the start of the year.
  • Installments: the prepaid card will deposit installments of the total amount throughout the year—monthly or quarterly.

Your insurance provider will distinguish which card you will get if you qualify to receive a Flex card.

Important Things To Know About a Flex Card

There is some confusion surrounding Flex cards, particularly given the variances between insurance companies.

Is a Flex Card Legitmate?

Flex cards are legitimate if they come from a reputable insurance company’s Medicare Advantage Plan. However, scams that target older adults can attempt to steal personal information. It’s important to ensure you’re only speaking to representatives of a Medicare Advantage plan, not a third party or unaffiliated website.

Learn more about avoiding scams targeting seniors here.

Is a Flex Card Free Money”?

Even from legitimate sources, ads for the Flex card can cause confusion about what it is.

While the Flex card is a pre-paid debit card, it isn’t free money” to spend on whatever you like. You cannot withdraw or get cash back from the balance of this card—it can only be used on specific health-related expenses that your provider determines.

The Flex card can be beneficial by helping you pay for certain medical expenses, but it has spending limits and terms that must be followed.

What The Medicare Flex Card Can Not Do

Given the different benefits, Flex cards cover different things. However, there is some consistency regarding what Flex cards won’t cover, including:

  • Rent
  • Non-medically essential supplies
  • Processed or prepared foods
  • Entertainment
  • Most non-health-related expenses

Note: Some Flex card benefits may include usage at gas stations and some utilities—check with your Flex plan provider for a complete list of specific benefits.

Is a Flex Card Right For You?

While the Flex card does provide some valuable benefits, there are some things to consider before applying to receive one.

  • Medicare Advantage Selection: Not all Medicare Advantage plans offer a Flex card benefit, meaning you may have to opt for a more expensive plan that doesn’t align with the coverage you need. It’s important to ensure the holistic plan is right for you and not apply solely due to its inclusion of a Flex card.
  • Medicare Supplement Plans: If you use Medicare Supplement options such as Medigap, you won’t qualify for a Flex card. Medigap coverage and Flex card coverage overlap in some areas, so it’s worth comparing the benefits of each to see which suits you best.
  • Specific benefits offered: since benefits vary between insurance companies, your particular plan may not provide the benefits you want or need. Contact your provider for a complete list of Flex card benefits offered.

Questions to Ask About Flex Card Benefits

Some important questions to ask about Flex card benefits include:

  • What type of installment plan will the Flex card provide?
  • How much is offered for the Flex card?
  • What restrictions come with the Flex card?
  • What does the Flex card cover?
  • Will any leftover balance rollover into the next year?

Answering these questions can help you determine whether a Flex card will work well with your needs.

FAQ

Is the Medicare Flex card free money?

The Medicare Flex card is a pre-loaded debit card, but you cannot withdraw the money or get cash back from the balance to spend on what you want. The card is meant to be used towards eligible expenses.

Does everyone on Medicare get a Flex card?

Those enrolled in Original Medicare do not get a Flex card—the Flex card is a benefit only available from certain Medicare Advantage plans.

Do all Medicare Advantage Plans provide Flex cards?

Not all Medicare Advantage plans offer Flex cards. You should check with your provider to see which plans come with the Flex card benefit.

Is there a $2,800 Flex card option?

A $2,800 Flex card option may exist, but it's worth noting that the premiums or other costs on the Medicare Advantage plan may be higher to cover the cost. Talk to your insurance provider to learn how much their Flex card benefit offers.

Can I use my Flex card for groceries?

The Flex card benefit can be used for some groceries—notably healthy food options and produce. This benefit is also only available for those with chronic conditions, so check with your provider for terms.

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