Have you heard of the Medicare Flex Card? It’s marketed to senior citizens as a flexible spending account that’s marketed to people who are on a Medicare plan, and it’s supposed to help them save money on their medical and out-of-pocket expenses.
There are commercials on television, ads on social media, and radio programs. Usually around the open enrollment period for Medicare.
You may be thinking these are some new cards full of Medicare benefits for you.
First, let me say that Medicare does not offer a free flex card, or any flex card for that matter. But, many Medicare Advantage health plans do offer flex cards. It’s important to know this difference.
So, is the Medicare senior flex card legitimate? No, the original Medicare plan does not offer a flex card program. Also, Medigap plans (supplement plans) do not offer a flex card. But some private Medicare Advantage plans which are offered by private insurance companies do offer this extra benefit.
From my research, I found that 3 companies offer this option.
Again, this option is not offered by original Medicare, it’s only offered by Medicare Advantage plans which are provided through private companies.
If you see an advertisement of some kind about Medicare Flex cards offering you free money to use, don’t believe them. It’s not legitimate. If it’s too good to be true, it usually is.
A flex card is not free money. While advertising for these cards may make it seem like you’re being given free money to spend on healthcare expenses, this is not exactly true. Although flex cards do come pre-loaded with a set dollar amount you can use, the benefits of this money may be offset by additional out-of-pocket costs such as higher deductibles, higher coinsurance rates, and higher monthly premiums.assurance.com
What Is A Flex Card?
A Flex Card is a type of payment card used for flexible spending accounts (FSAs) or health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs). It allows users to access pre-tax funds set aside for eligible medical expenses such as deductibles, copayments, and prescriptions. The card can be used at approved merchants and healthcare providers.
Basically, it’s a prepaid debit card that can be used to cover costs like doctor visits, prescription drugs, and other related expenses. It’s also convenient because you don’t have to carry around cash or remember to write checks every time you have a medical expense.
A Flex Card can be a great additional benefit provided by your health insurance plan. It is simply a convenient way to pay for items that your plan covers.
Flex cards are like pre-paid debit cards that Medicare beneficiaries can use to purchase durable medical equipment and other qualifying medical expenses. These cards are not a Medicare benefit, but are available on some specific Medicare Advantage (MA) plans offered by private insurance companies.clearmatchmedicare.com
The rules for the spending limit on your flex card and for what it can be used for are different depending on your Advantage plan. It can be as low as $200 or as high as $2000.
For example, if you are using Anthem, you can use your card for supplemental benefits such as:
- Healthy Foods (groceries)
- Over-the-counter health items
- Assistive devices
- Service dog support
- Dental services
- Vision care
- Hearing needs
- Utilities (gas, water, electric, cable or cell phones)
- Health facilities (gym, golf, swimming, etc.)
Remember, Anthem’s Medicare Advantage plan covers these items. The card can only be used for any eligible expense that the private company has determined to be covered.
So, if you are using a Medicare Advantage plan instead of Original Medicare, contact your provider to find out if they offer a flex card. I know that Kaiser Permanente’s Senior Advantage Plan does not use a flex card, they instead use their HSA account.
The Controversy Surrounding The Medicare Flex Card
The controversy surrounding the Medicare Flex Card is really more confusion. For one thing, Medicare does not provide a Flex Card, it’s provided by some private health insurance companies. Another issue of confusion is that each company has a different set of benefits associated with its flex cards.
I believe it is important we are aware of this issue and understand why the controversy (actually it’s confusion) exists. There are a lot of ads out there from private companies that try to offer Medicare beneficiaries a Medical Flex Card.
Why they don’t advertise (at least clearly) is that the flex card is not associated with Medicare at all.
It is important for older adults to know that these private companies are not affiliated with Medicare in any way.
Okay, so let’s discuss the confusion about these flex cards.
- Many seniors are confused by the idea that original Medicare is offering these cards, which as I’ve already said, they do not. ONLY some Medicare Advantage Plans (which are run by private companies) offer them.
- Advertisements can be misleading by offering partial information about what their card offers and this can also be confusing for older adults.
- Seniors aren’t often aware that what the card can be used for is different depending on the company that provides that card.
- Scammers use the lure of offering flex cards to get older adults to sign up for a Medicare Advantage plan or to switch to another one.
- Some seniors are under the impression that a flex card benefit is free money, which is not true.
I interviewed 10 older adults (ranging in age from 67 to 83) in my neighborhood. Six of these adults are on original Medicare and 4 are using a Medicare Advantage plan of some kind.
All 10 of them were under the impression that a Medicare flex card was either a credit card or a debit card that was credited with free money either by Medicare or their health provider. When I explained to them that Medicare does not provide a flex card, the majority of them were surprised.
Some Common Tactics Scammers Use
Usually, the majority of scammers for this come out during the Medicare enrollment period for Medicare which is between October 15th and December 7th every year. This is open season for scammers to call seniors and offer them a “free” Medicare flex card that requires no credit check and comes with an instant line of credit.
After all, it can seem like a great way to cut some medical costs.
Some of the common tactics used by scammers include:
- Charging excessive fees: Some scammers might offer a Medicare Flex Card for a high fee, claiming that it will provide significant discounts on healthcare expenses. However, these fees may be much higher than what you would pay for a legitimate card, and the promised discounts may not actually be available.
- Stealing personal information: Scammers might also try to steal your personal information (such as your Medicare number or Social Security number) by posing as a legitimate provider of the Medicare Flex Card.
- Providing fake cards: In some cases, scammers may simply provide a fake or counterfeit Medicare Flex Card that won’t actually provide any discounts on healthcare expenses.
The best way to protect yourself from these types of scams is to be wary of any unsolicited offers for Flex cards and to do your research to make sure that any card you sign up for is legitimate.
Basically, I would say that if you are being contacted, hang up and do not accept the offer. If you are looking for a flex card from a healthcare provider, contact the insurance company directly or a Medicare insurance broker who can advise you on what companies in your area offer this option.
As always, you want to read the fine print, or at the very least, have someone else, someone you trust read it and work through it with you.
How to Determine if a Medicare Flex Card is Legitimate
Here are some tips to help you determine if a Medicare Flex Card is legitimate:
- Check the provider’s credentials: Make sure the provider offering the Medicare Flex Card is licensed to offer healthcare discounts in your state. You can check with your state’s insurance department or attorney general’s office to verify the provider’s credentials.
- Research the company: Do some online research to learn more about the company offering the card. Check their website for information on how the card works, what kind of discounts are offered, and any fees that may be associated with the card. Look for customer reviews and feedback to see what other people’s experiences have been with the card.
- Contact Medicare: You can call Medicare directly at 1-800-MEDICARE to ask about the legitimacy of a particular Medicare Flex Card provider. They can also provide information on other resources and programs that may be available to help you save on your healthcare expenses.
- Beware of red flags: Be wary of any provider that asks for your personal information (such as your Medicare or Social Security number) before providing information on the card or its benefits. Also, be cautious of providers that charge excessive fees, promise huge savings, or pressure you to sign up quickly without giving you time to do your research.
- Ask your healthcare providers: Finally, you can ask your healthcare providers (such as your doctor, pharmacist, or hospital) if they accept the Medicare Flex Card or if they have any experience with the provider offering the card. They may be able to provide valuable insights and advice on whether or not the card is worth signing up for.
By taking these steps, you can help ensure that any Medicare Flex Card you sign up for is legitimate and can actually provide the savings and benefits you’re looking for.
Resources For Verifying The Legitimacy Of A Medicare Flex Card
There are several resources available to help you verify the legitimacy of a Flex Card offer:
- Medicare: You can contact Medicare directly at 1-800-MEDICARE to ask about the legitimacy of a particular Flex Card provider. They can also provide information on other resources and programs that may be available to help you save on your healthcare expenses.
- State Insurance Department or Attorney General’s Office: Check with your state’s insurance department or attorney general’s office to verify the provider’s credentials and to learn about any complaints or issues that have been reported against the provider.
- Better Business Bureau: Check the Better Business Bureau’s website to see if the provider has been accredited by the BBB and to read any reviews or complaints that have been filed against them.
- Online Research: Do some online research to learn more about the company offering the card. Look for customer reviews and feedback to see what other people’s experiences have been with the card.
By using these resources, you can get a better idea of whether or not a particular Medicare Flex Card provider is legitimate and can actually help you save money on your healthcare expenses.
How To Report Fraud
If you suspect that a Medicare Flex Card provider is fraudulent or suspicious, there are several steps you can take to report it:
- Contact Medicare: You can report any suspected Medicare fraud or abuse by calling Medicare’s toll-free hotline at 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227). Medicare representatives can help you file a report and can provide guidance on how to protect yourself from further fraud.
- Contact the Office of the Inspector General: The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) investigates cases of fraud and abuse in Medicare and other federal healthcare programs. You can report suspected Medicare fraud to the OIG by calling their hotline at 1-800-HHS-TIPS (1-800-447-8477) or by submitting an online report on their website.
- Contact the Federal Trade Commission: You can also report suspected Medicare fraud to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). You can file a complaint online through the FTC’s website or by calling their Consumer Response Center at 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357).
- Contact your State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP): Your state’s SHIP can provide assistance and guidance on Medicare-related issues, including fraud and abuse. You can find your state’s SHIP contact information by visiting the Medicare website or by calling Medicare directly at 1-800-MEDICARE.
By reporting any suspected Medicare fraud or abuse, you can help protect yourself and other Medicare beneficiaries from fraudulent or suspicious Medicare Flex Cards and other scams.
Alternatives To The Medicare Flex Card
Okay, so maybe you’ve decided not to use the flex card, are there any alternatives that you can use instead?
Yes, absolutely, there are several alternatives that you can look into:
- Medicare Savings Programs: These are state-run programs that help low-income Medicare beneficiaries pay for their healthcare costs. The programs vary by state, but may offer assistance with Medicare premiums, deductibles, and co-payments.
- Prescription Assistance Programs: Many pharmaceutical companies offer assistance programs that provide discounts or free medications to eligible individuals. You can check with the manufacturer of your medications or visit the Partnership for Prescription Assistance website to learn more.
- Non-Profit Organizations: There are several non-profit organizations that provide assistance with healthcare expenses, such as the National Patient Advocate Foundation and the Patient Access Network Foundation.
- Medicare Advantage Plans: Medicare Advantage Plans are private insurance plans that offer additional benefits beyond original Medicare, such as prescription drug coverage and dental and vision care. These plans may offer lower out-of-pocket costs than traditional Medicare.
- Health Savings Accounts: A Health Savings Account (HSA) is a tax-advantaged savings account that can be used to pay for healthcare expenses. To be eligible for an HSA, you must have a high-deductible health plan.
By exploring these alternatives, you may be able to find a legitimate way to save on your healthcare expenses that better fits your individual needs and circumstances.
How To Choose The Right Option For Your Needs
There are so many specific plans for Medicare and supplemental insurance as well. When it comes to choosing the right option for your healthcare needs, there are a few things you should consider:
- Your Healthcare Needs: Start by assessing your healthcare needs, including your current health status, any chronic conditions you may have, and the medications you are taking. This will help you determine what type of healthcare coverage or assistance you need.
- Your Financial Situation: Consider your budget and financial situation, including your income, expenses, and any available resources. This will help you determine what type of healthcare coverage or assistance you can afford.
- Eligibility Requirements: Check the eligibility requirements for any programs or options you are considering to make sure you meet the requirements. For example, Medicare Savings Programs may have income and asset limits, and Health Savings Accounts require a high-deductible health plan.
- Provider Networks: If you are considering a private insurance plan or Medicare Advantage Plan, make sure you check the provider network to ensure that your current healthcare providers are in the network.
- Reviews and Feedback: Look for reviews and feedback from other individuals who have used the program or option you are considering. This can help you get a better idea of the quality and effectiveness of the program or option.
By considering these factors, you can choose the healthcare coverage or assistance option that best fits your individual needs and circumstances. It’s important to do your research and choose a legitimate option to ensure that you are getting the care and assistance you need.
Again, my recommendation to you is to speak with a Medicare broker (the service does not cost you anything) for professional and educated information about all of your options.