Medicare Flex Card: Is It Legitimate?
- Discover whether the widely advertised Medicare flex card is legitimate. Learn about realistic spending limits, permitted expenses and participating plans.
If you've been watching TV or scrolling social media, you may have noticed advertisements for Medicare flex cards. Many ads claim that a flex card can give you more than $2,800 to spend on whatever you like.
It sounds too good to be true — and in most cases, it is.
Some private insurance companies do offer flex cards with certain Medicare Advantage plans. However, they aren't universally available, and they rarely have high spending limits. Before you choose a plan with a flex card, it's important to understand exactly what's involved.
What Is a Medicare Advantage Flex Card?
A flex card is a debit card offered by certain private Medicare Advantage providers. They're designed to help you pay for medical expenses that aren't covered by your plan; that way, you don't need to pay out of pocket.
Each insurer sets its own terms for the spending limit and permitted uses. Providers may allow you to use a flex card for expenses such as:
- Dental, vision and hearing needs
- Medical equipment, such as dentures and glasses
- Insurance copays
Flex cards are only available with certain plans; they may not be available in every state or county. Spending limits can vary based on your location and plan type.
Is the Medicare Flex Card Legitimate?
There are legitimate Medicare flex cards on the market; they're a benefit of certain private Medicare Advantage plans. However, they rarely live up to the benefits you see in advertisements.
Does Medicare Offer a Free Flex Card?
No. Government-provided Medicare plans do not come with a flex card. Flex cards are available exclusively through private insurance companies. If you see an advertisement for a free flex card or an Original Medicare flex card, it's probably not legitimate.
Spending Limit for Medicare Flex Cards
Every flex card is different; spending limits depend on the plan and insurance provider. However, most insurance companies don't offer anywhere near $2,800.
WellCare Medicare Advantage plans offer a Visa flex card with a spending limit of $200 – $2,500. Anthem advertises flex cards with limits of up to $500, and Aetna offers $400 per year. Certain Humana Medicare Advantage plans come with the Humana Flex Card, which has a $250 spending limit.
When you get a Medicare Advantage quote that includes a flex card, you can find the spending limit in the list of benefits.
Are Flex Cards Available With Medicare Supplement Insurance (Medigap)?
Flex cards do not come with Medicare Supplement plans. Medigap plans are designed to help you manage costs that aren't covered by Original Medicare, including copays and deductibles. That's where it can get confusing — flex cards may also allow you to pay for these things. However, Medicare flex cards only come with select Medicare Advantage plans.
How Does a Medicare Flex Card Work?
If your private Medicare Advantage plan offers a flex card, the company will mail it to you once the plan documents are complete. Then, you can use it like a regular debit card to pay for covered expenses. Some flex cards are tied to a flexible spending account, but this is not always the case.
Like a traditional debit card, a flex card allows you to spend up to a specific limit. Once you hit that limit, you can't use the card again until the start of the next benefit year. Unused funds may not roll over to the next year; check your benefits statement for details.
How Do You Qualify for a Medicare Flex Card?
To start, look for private insurance companies that offer Medicare Advantage plans in your area. Then, check out the available plans to see if they offer flex cards as a benefit. You can apply for the plan of your choice during a Medicare enrollment period. If you're approved, the company will let you know about the maximum spending limit.
Make sure to read the fine print on the Medicare Advantage quote — insurance companies may use flex cards to replace other benefits. Plans with flex cards may also have higher premiums or strict in-network requirements.
Medicare Flex Card Scams
Unfortunately, some Medicare flex card advertisements are scams that prey on older adults. In some cases, these ads direct you to a website or phone number that asks for private information: credit card numbers, Social Security numbers or bank account details.
To avoid Medicare flex card scams, look out for these red flags:
- Ads that say flex cards can be used to pay for gas and groceries. Some insurers may offer this benefit, but typically, flex cards are limited to medical expenses.
- Ads that say flex cards are universally available to Medicare participants. Medicare does not issue flex cards, and they aren't available to everyone.
- People that contact you first, without your permission. Trustworthy insurance companies typically don't contact you until you reach out first.
- Middlemen who get paid to refer you to insurance companies. Never give personal information to someone who does not represent the company itself.
The best way to avoid Medicare flex card scams is to go directly to the insurance company. If you're not sure how to proceed, the nearest Area Agency on Aging may be able to help. It might also be helpful to report Medicare fraud.