Q: I keep seeing ads for $900 in Medicare-covered grocery allowance. Is this legit?
A: They’re everywhere! TV and internet ads that hype as much as $900 in free groceries — a Medicare-covered healthy food allowance. But is this claim true?
Not exactly. In fact, for now, we rank it along with sightings of Bigfoot, for questionable claims — at least for most of us.
Medicare doesn’t provide money for grocery purchases, but some Medicare Advantage plans might. However, finding a plan and qualifying for the benefit may be much more difficult than the ads lead you to believe. Here’s why:
- You must enroll in the specific Medicare Advantage plan which offers the benefit.
- Only a very small number of Medicare Advantage plans offer grocery benefits.
- Only certain individuals with serious health conditions qualify, generally those who are very low-income and/or very sick.
- Qualifications vary by plan.
- You must live in the plan’s service area to get the food allowance card.
- The allowance is only available at certain participating grocery stores, which may vary by state.
- Ads appear to exaggerate the number of benefits most people can expect to receive. (No surprise.)
- Medicare Advantage plans are subject to change each year.
Tip: Before enrolling in any Medicare Advantage plan, you need to learn these essentials:
- The plan’s service area and whether your doctors, hospitals, and pharmacies participate.
- Co-payments, deductibles, premiums, annual out–of–pocket maximums. (In 2023, that maximum can be as high as $8,300.)
- Whether the plan covers the prescription drugs that you take.
If your income is low, you may qualify for SNAP (food stamps) or a senior food assistance program, or Meals on Wheels. For more information, get in touch with your Area Agency on Aging, or to learn more about benefits and programs that can help you save money on healthcare, prescription drugs, food, transportation, and more, try BenefitsCheckUp®, a project of the National Council on Aging.
BenefitsCheckUp® is the nation’s most comprehensive online tool to connect older adults and people with disabilities to benefits. This online screening tool makes it easy to see if you may be eligible—and then helps you find out where to apply online or how to get help from a benefits counselor. Online: https://benefitscheckup.org.