Is the senior flex card legitimate or a scam?
Lately, there have been many misleading advertisements about Medicare benefits that may or may not be available. One of those misleading advertisements concerns the flex card currently offered by some health insurers that offer Medicare Advantage plans.
Beneficiaries can use flex cards to buy medical equipment and other items. These are debit cards typically associated with a flexible spending account. These cards are a benefit available to qualifying health plans nationwide.
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Only specific plans offer these cards, which private insurance companies issue. Spending limits for the cards vary by plan and carrier. The flex card benefit is not widely available in Medicare Advantage plans, but a few plans throughout the nation do offer it.
The TV commercials that advertise the Flex Card are unusually misleading and it’s surprising to many of us in the industry that CMS hasn’t put a stop to it.
In this article, we intend to set the record straight about flex cards so that seniors who are skeptical or confused about flex cards will be aware of the who, when, where, and how much.
How can Seniors get a Flex Card?
Seniors can get a flex card if they are enrolled in a qualifying health plan that offers this benefit. Flex cards are typically linked to a flexible spending account, which is a special account that can be used to pay for eligible healthcare expenses.
To obtain a flex card, seniors should first check with their health insurance provider to see if their plan includes this benefit. If the plan does offer a flex card, the senior will need to enroll in a flexible spending account. Once the account is set up, the flex card will be issued by the insurance company and sent to the senior.
It’s important to note that while flex cards are not a common feature of Medicare Advantage plans, some plans do offer this benefit. Seniors who are enrolled in Medicare Advantage should check with their plan to see if a flex card is available.
What can Seniors purchase with a Flex Card?
Flex cards can be used to purchase eligible healthcare products and services. The specific products that can be purchased with a flex card may vary depending on the health plan and the type of flexible spending account associated with the card. However, some common examples of products that may be eligible for purchase with a flex card include:
- Prescription medications and medical supplies
- Over-the-counter medications (with a doctor’s prescription)
- Medical equipment such as crutches, wheelchairs, and home oxygen supplies
- Diagnostic devices such as blood glucose monitors and blood pressure monitors
- Dental and vision expenses, such as glasses or contact lenses
- Counseling and therapy services
- Acupuncture, chiropractic, and other alternative therapies (if prescribed by a doctor)
It’s important to note that not all healthcare expenses are eligible to be paid for with a flex card. It’s always a good idea to check with the health plan or the flexible spending account provider to confirm which expenses are eligible.
You should also notice that products like sneakers, clothing, groceries, and beer cannot be purchased with a flex card, only items that are medically necessary.
Who is Eligible for a Flex Card?
To qualify for flex cards as an optional additional benefit to a Medicare Advantage plan, you must have a policy that offers the program. However, not all health insurers that offer Medicare Advantage plans to participate in this program, as it is only offered by a small percentage of plans available nationwide. To take advantage of this benefit, you must reside in an area where at least one participating plan is available and enroll during a qualifying Medicare enrollment period.
The good news is that beneficiaries are not required to answer underwriting health questions to enroll in Medicare Advantage plans, which means you will not be denied coverage due to a pre-existing condition. However, it’s important to note that Medicare Advantage plans often have strict networks and higher out-of-pocket costs, so you should ensure that your physicians are covered by the plan’s network.
It’s also worth noting that flex cards may not be available in every state or with every carrier. To confirm if your plan offers this benefit, it’s best to contact your insurer directly or review your plan’s benefits on Medicare.gov.
Are there any Medicare Supplement Plans that offer a Flex Card?
Flex card benefits are not included in Medicare Supplement plans. Medigap plans, which are offered by private insurance companies, serve as a direct extension of Original Medicare. The main purpose of Medicare Supplement plans is to help beneficiaries limit out-of-pocket expenses by filling in the gaps in Original Medicare.
Flex cards are not considered an essential benefit of Medicare Supplement plans as Medigap beneficiaries usually enjoy savings on out-of-pocket costs when compared to Medicare Advantage plans.
In many cases, Medicare Advantage plans come with high maximum out-of-pocket costs, prompting insurers to offer extra benefits to make these policies more appealing to consumers. In contrast, Medicare Supplement plans enable beneficiaries to save money while still receiving the benefits necessary to reduce the costs of Original Medicare.
The Bottom Line
Although the senior flex card program is legitimate, we take issue with the way it is presented in some television advertisements. Also, there are reports of scammers who are using this Flex Card advertising to hook seniors into giving personal information that can be used to enroll them in a Medicare Advantage plan that doesn’t even offer the flex card program.
If you hear any of the following promises, hang up and report the caller if at all possible:
- “You can use your card to buy groceries and gasoline”
- “Your card comes pre-loaded with thousands of dollars”
- “I just need to prequalify you and then transfer you to an agent”
If you get an unsolicited call that sounds suspicious or doesn’t feel right, you can report it to Medicare by going to https://www.medicare.gov/basics/reporting-medicare-fraud-and-abuse or you can contact Medicare at 1-800-Medicare (1-800-633-4227).
Frequently Asked Questions
Original Medicare does not include food benefits, but certain Medicare Advantage plans may offer a grocery allowance or cover meal delivery. In addition, some plans may provide nutrition education and cooking classes as part of their program.
Original Medicare Part A, B, or D does not offer a Flex Card. However, Medicare Part C which is Medicare Advantage does have the flex card benefit with a small percentage of private companies that offer Medicare Advantage plans.
No. The flex card offered by some Medicare Advantage plans can only be used for medically needed items that are usually prescribed by your doctor.
If you wish to apply for flex card benefits, you should contact your Medicare Advantage provider directly. Unlike other types of Medicare benefits, there is no specific enrollment period for flex cards, as not all insurers offer this benefit. Additionally, the rules regarding the amount of money loaded onto the cards and the types of services covered may vary depending on the specific plan and insurer.
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