Medicare Grocery Benefit
Select Dual Eligible Special Needs Plans (D-SNPs) or Chronic Condition Special Needs Plans (C-SNP) — types of Medicare Advantage plans — offer a Medicare Grocery Benefit card. You can use this benefit to pay for health-oriented groceries, in-store or online, at specific stores. Learn more about the Medicare Grocery Benefit, including how the cards work, the average amount available and which insurers have a Medicare Grocery Benefit program to help you cut down costs.
- Written by Lindsey Crossmier
Lindsey Crossmier is an accomplished writer with experience working for The Florida Review and Bookstar PR. As a financial writer, she covers Medicare, life insurance and dental insurance topics for RetireGuide. Research-based data drives her work.Read More
- Edited BySavannah Hanson
Senior Financial Editor
Savannah Hanson is a professional writer and content editor with over 16 years of professional experience across multiple industries. She has ghostwritten for entrepreneurs and industry leaders and been published in mediums such as The Huffington Post, Southern Living and Interior Appeal Magazine.Read More
- Reviewed ByChristian Worstell
Christian Worstell is a licensed health insurance agent and an established writer in the sector, with articles featured in Forbes, MarketWatch, WebMD and more. His work has positively impacted beneficiaries nationwide and empowers them to make strong health care decisions.Read More
- Published: January 13, 2023
- Updated: January 24, 2023
- 6 min read time
- This page features 11 Cited Research Articles
- Edited By
- The Medicare Grocery Benefit is typically an option for select D-SNP or C-SNP beneficiaries.
- Some traditional Medicare Advantage plans also offer a Medicare Grocery Benefit.
- Some insurers that offer a Medicare Grocery Benefit are Humana, Aetna, United HealthCare, Florida Blue and Blue Shield California.
- In most cases, you can only use your Medicare Grocery Benefit for nutritional foods: fruit, vegetables, pantry staples and meat.
What Is a Medicare Grocery Benefit?
A Medicare Grocery Benefit, also known as a Medicare Food Allowance or Heath Foods Card, provides grocery funds for select Medicare Special Needs Plans (SNP), such as an D-SNP or C-SNP, which are all types of Medicare Advantage plans. The benefit is most commonly available for D-SNP beneficiaries.
The Medicare Grocery Benefit card isn’t guaranteed by all insurers and the guidelines vary, so it’s best to double-check details and availability with your plan.
You can typically only use your Medicare Grocery Benefit on select healthy foods. Sugary, processed food will likely be excluded.
- Fruits and vegetables
- Frozen meals
- Fresh salad kits
- Dairy products
- Pantry staples
- Nutritional bars
- Meat and seafood
- Pet food
- Self-care items
- Hygiene products
*Insurers might have slightly different inclusions and exclusions.
How Does Medicare Food Allowance Work?
A Medicare Food Allowance card is either a prepaid visa card or a coupon card that is reloaded monthly or quarterly. “The average Medicare Grocery card amount is $150 a month in 2023,” Michael Jones, a licensed insurance agent and owner of Grand Anchor Insurance, told RetireGuide. When comparing several insurers, there was a monthly range of $25-$275 loaded on a Medicare Food Allowance card.
If it is a prepaid visa card, you’ll swipe it as you could a normal debit card. If it is a coupon card, the cashier will need to scan the back of the card. Make sure you activate your Medicare Food Allowance card before trying to make a purchase.
The average Medicare Grocery card amount is $150 a month in 2023.
The funds on your Medicare Food Allowance card likely will not roll over from month to month — so if you have this benefit, make sure to use all the funds each payment period.
There will also be rules on what grocery stores accept your Medicare grocery allowance card.
According to Clover Health, some common grocery stores you’ll likely be able to use your Medicare grocery allowance card at include Walgreens, Walmart, Food Lion, Kroger and CVS. Contact your insurer to see what foods and stores are eligible for your card.
Some insurers allow you to pay in-store or shop online for approved foods. CarePlus Health Plans offers home-delivered meals with DeliverLean, which has no shipping charges.
The Medicare Grocery Benefit can bring considerable savings to the checkout line, particularly during times of high inflation, while addressing some specific nutrition needs. Anyone eligible for a Medicare plan with such benefit should strongly consider enrolling.
What Types of Plans Offer a Medicare Food Allowance?
Most D-SNP and C-SNP plans, types of Medicare Advantage plans, offer a Medicare Food Allowance.
Jones offered his expert insight on which plans often offer a Medicare Food Allowance. “Most traditional Medicare Advantage plans do not come with a Grocery Benefit or Health Foods Card,” Jones told RetireGuide. “But most of the D-SNP and C-SNP plans will have Medicare Grocery Benefit, as well as an Over-the-Counter benefit and even a Utilities Benefit that can be used to pay your phone, light, internet and cable bills.”
In 2022, more insurers, like Florida Blue, Wellcare and Aetna, are starting to introduce this benefit to help seniors keep up with nutrition during difficult times of inflation.
You may be more likely to have a Medicare Food Allowance card available if you have a D-SNP plan. Humana and CarePlus Health Plans, for example, offer 100% of D-SNP beneficiaries a Medicare food allowance.
Most traditional Medicare Advantage plans do not come with a Grocery Benefit or Health Foods Card. But most of the D-SNP and C-SNP plans will have Medicare Grocery Benefit, as well as an Over-the-Counter benefit and even a Utilities Benefit that can be used to pay your phone, light, internet and cable bills.
Who Is Eligible for a Food Allowance Card?
In most cases, if you have a D-SNP or C-SNP plan, you should be eligible for a Medicare Food Allowance card if your insurer offers it. In rare cases, you may be eligible for a Medicare Food Allowance card with a traditional Medicare Advantage plan.
To qualify for the benefit, you will most likely need to complete an annual wellness visit, a health risk assessment or have a specific condition.
- An autoimmune disorder
- Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
- Congestive Heart Failure (CHF)
- Coronary Artery Disease (CAD)
- End-stage liver disease
Some plans may have different qualifications. Speak with your doctor or insurer to see if your condition is included.
Other Grocery Resources for Seniors
If a Medicare Food Allowance isn’t an option for you, there are other resources for nutritional meals like Meals on Wheels and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The Meals on Wheels program provides meals and SNAP provides funds for you to buy groceries. With over 7.3 million older adults lacking nutritional food in the U.S., it’s important to take your needs seriously and get help if necessary.
Meals on Wheels is currently helping deliver 221 million hot meals to 2.4 million seniors each year. The meals are typically delivered Monday through Friday. There are qualification requirements to sign up for Meals on Wheels.
According to the National Council on Aging, the SNAP program provides low-income older adults with $104 per month on average to help put food on the table. Currently, three out of five qualified seniors are missing out on SNAP benefits. If you believe you could be eligible, look into enrolling for SNAP to cut down on costs.
Frequently Asked Questions About Medicare Grocery Benefit
Editor Samantha Connell contributed to this article.
11 Cited Research Articles
- Clover Health. (2022, December 02). Medicare Advantage Plans and the Grocery Plus Benefit. Retrieved from https://www.cloverhealth.com/en/members/grocery-plus-benefit-medicare-advantage
- Humana. (2022, November 1). Humana Healthy Foods Card Is Now the Healthy Options Allowance. Retrieved from https://www.humana.com/medicare/medicare-programs/healthy-options-allowance
- National Council on Aging. (2022, October 18). What Is SNAP and How Do I Apply? Retrieved from https://www.ncoa.org/article/what-is-snap-and-how-do-i-apply
- Blue Shield California. (2022, October 1). Get Easier Access to Healthy Groceries. Retrieved from https://www.blueshieldca.com/bsca/bsc/wcm/connect/sites/sites_content_en/medicare/explore_medicare_plans/blue_shield_plan_benefits/healthy-grocery?utm_source=display&utm_medium=mailer&utm_campaign=2022medicareaep
- Wellcare Health Plans. (2022, October 1). $0 Prescriptions and Healthy Foods Benefit. Retrieved from https://www.wellcare.com/en/Healthy-Foods-Benefit
- CarePlus Health Plans. (2022, April 21). CarePlus Healthy Foods Card Program. Retrieved from https://www.careplushealthplans.com/members/healthy-foods-card
- Florida Blue. (2022, January). Healthy Food Benefit Available for Medicare/Medicaid Dual-Eligible Members with a Qualifying Condition. Retrieved from https://www.floridablue.com/sites/floridablue.com/files/docs/Bulletin-DSNP_Healthy_Food_Benefit.pdf
- Aetna. (2022). Get the Most Out of Your Plan. Retrieved from https://www.aetnamedicare.com/sites/mydsnp2.html
- Meal on Wheels America. (2022). Find Meals. Retrieved from https://www.mealsonwheelsamerica.org/
- National Council on Aging. (2021, February 15). Get the Facts on SNAP and Senior Hunger. Retrieved from https://www.ncoa.org/article/get-the-facts-on-snap-and-senior-hunger
- Meals on Wheels People. (n.d.). FAQ. Retrieved from https://www.mowp.org/faq/
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