What Is a Medicare Flex Card?

If you’ve recently heard about Medicare “flex cards” — also called flexible benefits cards for seniors — you may be wondering what they are and whether you can get one.

In this article, we’ll outline everything you need to know about these debit cards, including how they work, what you can use them for and how to get one.

[Read: Best Insurance Companies for Medicare Advantage.]

What Is the Flex Card for Seniors?

Medicare flex cards, a fairly recent addition to the Medicare benefits universe, are an added benefit that applies to certain health-related services. They are not issued by the federal government and are not part of traditional Medicare — also known as “original Medicare,” or Medicare Part A and Part B.

“Medicare flex cards are a benefit offered by some Medicare Advantage plans,” explains Bob Rees, chief sales officer with eHealth Inc., a health insurance broker and online resource provider headquartered in Santa Clara, California. “They’re not available directly from Medicare but are made available to enrollees by some insurance companies sponsoring Medicare Advantage plans.”

These benefits are issued as a plastic card, similar to a credit card, that is separate from your Medicare Advantage health insurance card and other Medicare-related cards. Flex cards may go by different names depending on the plan, and it’s important to note that not all Medicare Advantage plans offer them.

[Read: Medicare Advantage vs. Medicare Cost Plans: What’s the Difference?]

How Medicare Flex Cards Work

Typically, flex cards come in the form of prepaid debit cards with a specific dollar amount allotted per year. There are usually two ways benefits tied to these cards are structured:

Incremental payments. Some plans add money to the card throughout the year in quarterly or even monthly increments.

Annual benefit payment. Other plans add money once a year. After you spend it all, more money won’t be added until your next plan year commences.

You should also keep in mind:

— The dollar amount and what’s covered varies from plan to plan.

— Benefits don’t roll over from one year to the next, so if you don’t use all of the benefits, you’ll forfeit that money.

— Not all retailers and health care professionals accept payments via Medicare flex cards. Your plan, however, will typically provide you with a list of places where you can use them.

[Read: What to Consider When Shopping for Medicare Coverage.]

What a Medicare Flex Card Can Be Used for

Generally speaking, Rees says you may be able to use a flex card to pay for health and wellness-related items, such as:

Over-the-counter drugs.


Hearing aids.

Gym memberships.

— Some nonmedical transportation.

— Insurance copayments.

In some cases, groceries, cell phone bills and even service dog support may be included as covered items, while other plans may limit use of your flex card to specific retailers. It all depends on the specifics of the plan you’re enrolled in.

Who Qualifies for the Flex Card?

Seniors who are enrolled in a qualifying Medicare Advantage plan are eligible to get a Medicare flex card. Each plan sets its own eligibility rules, and not every enrollee will be qualified for a Medicare flex card.

Some plans restrict these cards to individuals with chronic conditions.

How to Get a Medicare Flex Card

To get a Medicare flex card, you’ll need to enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan that offers one, Rees says.

“You can review the different Medicare Advantage plans available in your area during Medicare’s annual enrollment period in the fall or at other times of year if you qualify for a special enrollment period,” he notes.

How to Know If a Medicare Flex Card Is Right for You

Some seniors love these cards and find them a valuable benefit, Rees says. He cautions, though, that you shouldn’t let the possibility of having one sway you toward one health insurance plan over another.

“We hear from a lot of Medicare beneficiaries looking for flex cards,” Rees notes. “Their enthusiasm is understandable, especially for anyone living on a tight budget. However, it’s important to note that picking the right Medicare plan for you should involve a holistic review of your personal health needs and what you can afford in terms of premiums and out-of-pocket costs.”

If the right plan for you does include a Medicare flex card, he adds, make sure the plan itself is affordable and covers the prescription drugs, doctors and hospitals you need.

What’s more, while some plans provide a flex card, the plan administrators may be offering that instead of other benefits or alongside higher copays or coinsurance payments. Some may advertise a certain annual allowance that turns out to be much lower once you’re enrolled because of eligibility rules that might not be obvious upfront.

To help you wade through all the options and considerations to find the right plan, Rees recommends working with a licensed agent.

More from U.S. News

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The Most Common Medicare Mistakes That Cost You Money

What Is a Medicare Flex Card? originally appeared on usnews.com

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