Flex Card for Seniors: What It Is and Why Everyone Is Talking About It
Flex cards. There’s a lot of uncertainty and confusion surrounding this benefit included in some Medicare Advantage plans.
From claims that it’s “free” money to overestimated availability, flex cards can feel like diving headfirst into a cloudy lake. Today, we hope to help clear up some of that confusion.
Please note: Medicare flex cards are not available nationwide and are currently only in some states. We do not offer every plan available in your area. Any information we provide is limited to those plans we do offer in your area. Please contact Medicare.gov or 1-800-MEDICARE to get information on all of your options.
What is a Medicare flex card?
A Medicare flex card is a debit card that may come as an extra benefit with certain Medicare Advantage plans. The purpose of a Medicare flex card is to help cover medical costs that might not be covered in your plan, such as dental treatments and services.
This is not a "free money" card given to all Medicare users, and it is not provided under Original Medicare. Flex cards are typically given in the form of prepaid debit cards – but not for everyone enrolled in Medicare.
Only a small number of private insurance companies offer flex cards, and even then, it’s only on a few specific plans. Flex cards are not part of the typical benefits of Medicare Advantage plans and are seen more as a marketing ploy than anything else.
What can a flex card be used for?
Flex cards can only be used for qualifying medical expenses. Generally speaking, you may be able to use a flex card for things like:
- Insurance copayments
- Prescription and OTC medications
- Dental, vision and hearing care
- And some other medically necessary expenses
Some plans may stipulate that the flex cards can only be used for dental, vision and hearing while others may be less restrictive. It’s important to bear in mind that plan variations occur, so be sure to read through your plan’s specific list of approved items before you use your flex card.
A quick note about flex card scams
Flex cards may be legitimate for a select number of plans in a few select counties (within a few select states), but advertising them as nationally available or as free money for all is simply untrue.
Flex cards have been used in the past to lure in seniors by overpromising availability and use when, in fact, they are not common. Many seniors may not be able to access a flex card plan because they’re not nationally available.
Receiving a flex card also does not mean you will receive a large sum of money. Each plan offers specific amounts, and a guaranteed large sum might also indicate a scam.
How to avoid flex card scams
When you’re in the market for any Medicare plan, it is important to shop from reputable sources. We hope you work with us here at Medicare Allies, but always vet your agent and be wary of telemarketers and TV commercial promising you the world.
Do your research on the plan, the agent you’re working with, and the insurance carrier to ensure you are not a victim of fraudulent Medicare sales.
Worried about potential Medicare scams? Here are three simple tips to stay safe:
- Guard your personal information and only share with trusted sources.
- If something seems too good to be true, it probably is.
- Work with a licensed insurance agent.
Want to learn more about popular Medicare scams? Check out this article about phone scams seniors should avoid.
How can seniors get flex cards?
Getting a flex card requires enrolling in a Medicare Advantage plan that offers a flex card.
However, this may not be so simple. Flex cards are not available through most carriers and even those who may offer flex cards do not offer them on all plans. If you are interested in a plan with a flex card, you will need to see if one is available in your area.
Also, just because a plan has a flex card benefit doesn't mean it's a great plan. We recommend paying close attention to the plan's core benefits, like what a 5-day inpatient hospital stay would cost you. (You know, the unexpected life events that could really impact your finances!)
Do seniors get flex cards for free?
A flex card may not cost any additional cost beyond your Medicare Advantage premiums, but that does not mean that it is free. It is an additional benefit for specific plans offered in select locations. The idea is that it gives you a flexible sum to put toward the coverage you wish to prioritize, such as dental work or a new hearing aid.
It is not free money. It is designed to give you a little more freedom when prioritizing your health needs regarding dental, vision and hearing coverage specifically.
How do flex cards work?
For those who enroll in a plan with a flex card, you will receive a card with a set amount of funds. Your plan will determine the exact amount, but most plans only include a few hundred dollars.
Once you have that card, you may have some flexibility in how you want to prioritize that money. Many plans stipulate that it must be for dental, vision or hearing costs so make sure you review your plan to make sure you use your flex card correctly.
Flex cards give you the freedom to choose what you want to focus on since you know your needs best. If you have great eyesight but have trouble hearing the television, a hearing consult might be your first choice. Others might opt for dental work. The choice is ultimately yours.
Who qualifies for a flex card?
Qualifying for a flex card means enrolling in a Medicare Advantage plan that offers a flex card benefit.
Plans with the flex card benefit are not available nationally, so you will have to see if a plan is offered in your area. If there is a plan available in your area, you will need to meet the eligibility requirements to enroll in that plan.
What is the benefit of a flex card?
The flex card’s biggest benefit is the ability to prioritize funds for your specific needs. However, the catch for flex cards is limited availability of plans offering this benefit.
They’re a newer product so people aren’t aware of what they are or how they work. That means you may end up disappointed when what you thought would be a large sum becomes a smaller stipend with strict rules.
Add to that the limited offering of plans with flex cards and it’s easy to see why flex cards may be more trouble than they’re worth.
The bottom line
The prevalence of advertisements hailing the flex card as a holy grail item or as a government handout have put unrealistic expectations on what was designed to help you pay for some health-related expenses that aren’t covered by your plan.
Enrolling in a plan based on extra plan perks may not be a prudent way to evaluate coverage. Your Medicare plan is fundamentally about your health care coverage needs. Let the perk and extras, like flex cards, be the icing on the cake and not the reason to enroll.
No matter what type of plan you’re looking for, Medicare Allies can help. Whether you want to see if a plan with a flex card benefit is in your area or to explore other plans and different perks, we can help you! Reach out and give us a call to compare your options so you can make an informed coverage choice.
Disclaimer: Medicare Allies is not affiliated with Medicare or any other government agency. We do not offer every plan available in your area. Any information we provide is limited to those plans we do offer in your area. Please contact Medicare.gov or 1-800-MEDICARE to get information on all of your options.
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