The article discusses the availability and benefits of Medicare “flex cards” provided by some private Medicare insurers who manage Medicare Advantage (part C) plans. These flex cards offer additional benefits, allowing enrollees to use a specific amount of money for various health-related services such as over-the-counter drugs, eyeglasses, non-medical transportation, and even certain groceries. However, it is important to note that flex cards are not issued by traditional Medicare, and the federal government is not involved. Each plan sets its flex card allowance amount and spending rules, and eligibility, dollar amounts, and allowable purchases vary by plan and location.
For example, United Health Care offers the UCard, which combines a member ID card with access to rewards, gym membership, and credits for over-the-counter products. Anthem provides a quarterly spending allowance that can be used for everyday purchases, assistive devices, service dog support, healthy groceries, utilities, and sports facility fees. However, not every plan offers a flex card, and not every store or health professional may accept it. It is important to check the participating locations and retailers listed by your plan.
To obtain a Medicare flex card, individuals may need to change plans and look for available Medicare Advantage plans in their area that offer the program and are eligible during Medicare Advantage open enrollment. However, it is crucial to carefully compare other costs and consider tradeoffs, such as higher copays or co-insurance, forfeiting other benefits, or potential changes in doctors. False or misleading advertising should also be avoided, as monetary limits can be lower than advertised, and benefits do not roll over from year to year. These additional benefits are relatively new and offered by about one-third of Medicare Advantage companies in 2022, but they are not part of the government Medicare benefit or Medigap plans. Choosing a plan requires weighing various pros and cons, including the availability of flex cards.