Meal and grocery benefits are a recent addition to the list of benefit offerings for some Medicare Advantage plans. When choosing which Medicare plan is right for you, it’s important to have all the facts. Learn more about grocery and meal delivery benefits so you can feel confident in your healthcare decisions.
Is the Medicare Grocery Benefit Real or a Scam?
Because Medicare grocery allowance is such a new benefit, there is a lot of misinformation surrounding the topic. You may have seen commercials where individuals are seen grocery shopping and paying for everything with a special Medicare card, or seen advertisements claiming, “900 dollars in free groceries and free meal delivery.”
While select Medicare advantage plans do offer an allowance for groceries or home-delivered meals, not all plans offer this benefit. Additionally, not every beneficiary qualifies for the plans that do offer meal and grocery benefits. This article will help you understand the facts about free groceries and meal delivery with Medicare.
Facts About Medicare Grocery Benefit and Meal Delivery Benefit
When thinking about Medicare grocery benefit or meal delivery benefit, keep the following facts in mind:
- These benefits are only available to beneficiaries enrolled in a small number of Medicare Advantage plans
- You may need to meet certain health or lifestyle requirements
- Only some food is covered in grocery allowances
- Not all grocery stores allow you to use a Medicare grocery allowance
- The term “free groceries” is misleading, as it is not a legitimate Medicare benefit
Medicare Advantage plans have some great benefits, but if it sounds too good to be true, it’s a good idea to do further research. When you are trying to find a Medicare plan that’s right for you and your lifestyle, try not to base your decision on whether a plan offers a grocery allowance or meal-delivery program. Focus on finding a Medicare Advantage plan that helps you reach your health and financial goals.
What is the Medicare Grocery Benefit and Medicare Meal Delivery Benefit?
First, there is no specific benefit in Original Medicare, Medicare Parts A and B, that covers free groceries or meal delivery.
There are some Part C Medicare Advantage plans that offer meal or grocery benefits, such as:
- Grocery allowance
- Transportation for non-medical needs like grocery shopping
- Home-delivered meals
- Home-delivered groceries
It’s important to note that the resources listed do not have unlimited benefits. These are relatively new benefits and are often dependent on certain circumstances, such as being enrolled in a specific plan designed for those who are homebound, have a low income or a specific chronic medical condition. Reading available plans’ benefit summary can give you a good idea of what benefits are offered and what limitations are present.
If you do find a plan that offers a grocery allowance, it’s highly unlikely that you will be able to go into any grocery store and use the allowance on your entire cart of items. Plans with grocery allowance benefits have restrictions, such as an allotment for healthy food only (no junk food like soda, chips, or candy).
Similar to grocery allowances, you must meet certain eligibility requirements to acquire home-delivered meals. Most often, you are allowed a restricted number of home-delivered meals following a stay at the hospital or nursing facility.
Medicare Advantage Plans
Medicare Advantage (Part C) plans are required to have at least the same level of coverage as Original Medicare (Parts A and B). Often, Medicare Advantage plans offer additional benefits or coverage beyond what Parts A and B have to offer. Some examples of services that may be covered by Medicare Advantage include:
- Dental, hearing and vision services
- Fitness classes
- And more!
Some Medicare Advantage plans offer cards with a set amount of money to use on health-related costs or items, known as flex cards and over-the-counter cards. That said, these cards do not typically pay for groceries, other food, or meal delivery services.
Frequently Asked Questions
Limited Medicare Advantage (Part C) plans offer this benefit, and not all groceries or grocery stores are covered.
Some limited Medicare Advantage plans offer a grocery allowance, or other similarly titled benefit, that offers a set allowance to be used on healthy food items each month, quarter or year. This benefit is not available on most plans.
Yes. In addition to the grocery allowance benefit, some Medicare Advantage plans, D-SNP and C-SNP plans offer home-delivered meals after an inpatient hospital or skilled nursing facility stay.
Annual Enrollment Period (AEP)
Medicare Annual Enrollment Period runs each year from October 15 to December 7. What is the Annual Enrollment Period vs. Open Enrollment Period?
Initial Enrollment Period (IEP)
Your Initial Enrollment Period generally surrounds your 65th birthday but may occur if you otherwise become eligible for Medicare for the first time.
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