What is a “Flex Card”?

What is a “Flex Card”?

By Susan Stewart, Licensed Insurance Agent

“Flex Card” is a generic term for a prepaid card that gives additional benefits to people with certain Medicare Advantage plans. Different flex cards offer other benefits, which can include:

An extra dental, vision, and hearing benefit. Let’s say your plan gives you $2,000 in Dental, $400 for glasses, and a copay of $399 for hearing aids. The card is intended to help pay either a copay (as in hearing aids) or dental/vision costs that exceed your allowance. For example, if your flex card has a value of $500 and your glasses cost $450, you use this prepaid debit card to pay the $50 difference. If your hearing aid has a $399 copay, you can use the card to pay the copay for your hearing aid. The value of the card is a yearly allowance.

It's crucial to note that this flex card is strictly for dental, vision, and hearing expenses. Attempting to use it for other purposes will not    work. Additionally, as a prepaid debit card, it's important to know that some providers may prefer to use your entire benefit immediately rather than waiting for a bill. This misuse has led to fewer plans offering a flex benefit for dental, vision, and hearing.

Funds for purchasing over-the-counter (OTC) items. Pain relief, vitamins, cold and allergy medication—a flex card can cover the things you might pick up at the pharmacy. It can also be used to purchase supplies like first aid, incontinence supplies, and nutritional supplement drinks. Some stores will have tags by the pricing on shelves that say “OTC eligible,” which means you can use your flex card to purchase them. Next time you’re in that section of your local store, look for these tags.

Funds for purchasing food and home supplies and helping with utilities or rent, among other things, depending on the carrier and the plan. This is the most requested flex card benefit. The richest of these benefits are available to seniors with eligible levels of Medicaid in addition to Medicare. Each carrier calls its card by a different name.

To the dismay of people with Medigap/Medicare Supplement plans, these cards are unavailable with such plans. Only Medicare Advantage plans offer flex cards. Their availability can also vary by the county you live in, your specific plan, and other eligibility factors. It is important to remember that even if you have the same carrier as your cousin and they have a flex card, that doesn’t mean one will be available for you.

Most importantly, read everything sent to you by your carrier and check other mail, too, because flex cards can be delivered in plain white envelopes that are easily dismissed as junk mail.

Educate yourself. Find out what your plan’s flex card is meant for, as well as where and how to use it. Is activation required?  If you need help, call the number on the back of the card and allow your carrier to educate you. The extra effort to educate yourself will save you frustration and ensure you get the most out of your flex card, whatever benefits it offers.