Medicare Flex Card Scams
April 10, 2023
Only certain Medicare Advantage plans distribute flex cards to eligible members — quarterly or annually — to cover some health-related expenses, such as over-the-counter medicine, dental care copays and other out-of-pocket costs. They also can provide a grocery allowance for healthful food such as produce.
Even though the card is called a Medicare flex card, it has nothing to do with original Medicare.
How it works
Some advertisements claim that Medicare is giving out flex cards containing several hundred dollars to apply toward food and other items. This scam directs you to a website where you’ll be asked to provide personal information that can be stolen, such as a Social Security number, credit card number or bank account information.
This is similar to another Medicare card scam in which impostors posing as government representatives ask for your personal information to send you a replacement Medicare card. You can get a replacement card by calling Medicare (800-633-4227) or downloading the card from your online Medicare account and printing a copy. No one is going to phone you to send you one.
You also face the chance of your Medicare number being used to file false Medicare claims in your name. That’s why you should be one step ahead of these scams.
Here are some ways to identify potential fraud or a scam.
- The ad or caller claims the flex card is from Medicare or the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). It’s a scam. Medicare doesn’t issue flex cards. Some private Medicare Advantage plans offer flex cards, but you must first qualify for one.
- The ad or caller claims you can use the card for any purchase. Medicare Advantage flex cards have specific requirements. You can’t use them for everything.
For example, flex cards may provide a quarterly amount for over-the-counter medicine or drugstore items or have a grocery allowance for healthy food. But you can use them only for these types of purchases — and you may have to qualify first. For example, the healthy food allowance may only be available for people with chronic conditions.
- You receive an unexpected call from someone claiming to be from Medicare. Medicare will never call you without your request to do so, such as by leaving a message on its customer service line (800-633-4227).
- Someone other than a representative from your Medicare Advantage plan contacts you about a flex card. You can get these cards only if you’re enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan through a private insurer.
In this case, the caller may be an identity thief trying to get your personal information or a broker attempting to get you to switch plans. Understand how the rest of your coverage may change before switching to a Medicare Advantage plan because you want to try to qualify for a flex card.
How to protect yourself from scams
- Hang up immediately if you receive an unsolicited call from someone who claims to be from Medicare and asks for personal information.
- Hang up or don’t respond if you receive an unsolicited call, text or email from someone asking for personal information.
- Do your homework. If you’re intrigued by the idea of a grocery allowance from a Medicare Advantage plan, research the plans on your own. Compare total costs for health and drug coverage, as well as provider networks, before choosing a Medicare Advantage plan.
- Know the difference between original Medicare and Medicare Advantage coverage before switching from one to the other.
- Find out if you really meet the plan’s requirements to qualify for this extra benefit.
- The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, the division of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) that runs the Medicare program, recommends contacting the HHS fraud hotline at 800-447-8477 or calling Medicare at 800-MEDICARE (800-633-4227) to report suspected Medicare-related fraud.
- Or contact the Senior Medicare Patrol (SMP) in your state to report Medicare scams and fraud. Find contact information at the SMP locator or call the SMP’s nationwide number at 877-808-2468 and ask for the SMP phone number in your state. SMPs are local volunteer organizations that the federal government finances. They have been helping prevent and report Medicare fraud for more than 20 years.
- If you gave out personal information and worry that you may be a victim of identity theft, you can report potential ID theft and get a personal recovery plan at the Federal Trade Commission’s IdentityTheft.gov. You can find more information about protecting yourself from ID theft at the FTC Consumer Advice website.
Date Acquired: 3/28/2023