What Is the Medicare Grocery Benefit

Medicare is the national health insurance program that helps provide the medical and healthcare needs for virtually all people 65 and older and those who are seriously disabled. Medicare is comprised of several types of coverage, known as “parts”. One of these is Part C, more commonly known as Medicare Advantage.

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Medicare Advantage (MA) is an enhanced form of regular Medicare, providing extra and broader coverage than regular Medicare’s Parts A, B and D. MA plans are sold and administered by private insurance companies while being regulated by the government. There are dozens of companies selling these and there are many different kinds of these plans. The availability of these plans and their cost vary, depending on your location, specific health needs and other factors. While MA plans are most known and popular for things like dental and vision care and other health needs not provided for under regular Medicare, certain kinds of MA plans can also help provide some important extra needs – such as having nutritious food to eat.

This kind of assistance is known as the Medicare Grocery Benefit. This benefit is not universal and again will vary depending on the specific individual MA policy and insurance company. Discussed below are the general details and guidelines of this benefit.


Medicare Advantage Special Needs Plans

The Grocery Benefit is usually only available for certain people who get a Medicare Advantage Special Needs Plan (SNP). There are two main types of SNP’s:

– Chronic Condition SNP (C-SNP): For people with specific chronic conditions, such as cancer, dementia, diabetes, HIV, stroke and certain neurologic disorders.

– Dual Eligible SNP (D-SNP): Low-income people over 65 and low-income people with severe disabilities can be eligible for Medicaid and Medicare at the same time. Dual eligible special needs plans serve beneficiaries who are dual enrolled in Medicare and Medicaid.

Eligible Conditions For a C-SNP

• Autoimmune disorders
• Cancer (excluding pre-cancer conditions)
• Cardiovascular disorders
• Chronic alcohol and other dependence
• Chronic heart failure
• Chronic lung disorders
• Chronic and disabling mental health conditions
• Dementia
• Diabetes mellitus
• End-stage liver disease
• End-Stage Renal Disease (ESRD) requiring dialysis
• Neurologic disorders
• Severe hematologic disorders
• Stroke

What Is the Grocery Benefit

The Medicare Grocery Benefit, also known as a Medicare Food Allowance or Health Foods Card, provides grocery funds for select Medicare Special Needs Plans (SNP), such as an D-SNP or C-SNP, which are types of Medicare Advantage plans. The benefit is most commonly available for D-SNP beneficiaries.

Please note that The Medicare Grocery Benefit isn’t available from all insurers and the guidelines vary by specific plan as well, so it’s best to double-check details and availability with your Medicare insurance plan provider.

Types Of Groceries

The following are typically covered:

• Fruits and vegetables
• Frozen meals
• Fresh salad kits
• Dairy products
• Pantry staples
• Water
• Soup
• Nutritional bars
• Meat and seafood

The following are usually not covered:

• Alcohol
• Pet food
• Desserts
• Self-care items
• Hygiene products

How The Grocery Benefit Works

An eligible person will receive a Medicare Food Allowance card that is either a prepaid Visa card or a coupon card that is reloaded monthly or quarterly. The average Medicare Grocery card benefit amount is $150 a month in 2023. When comparing several insurers, there was a monthly range of $25-$275 loaded on a Medicare Food Allowance card.

If the card 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. You have to activate your Medicare Food Allowance card before trying to make a purchase. It is important to note that the funds on your Medicare Food Allowance card likely will not roll over from month to month — therefore you should make sure to use all the funds each payment period.

The rules on what grocery stores can accept your Medicare grocery allowance card will also vary from plan to plan. The most 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. For example, CarePlus Health Plans offers home-delivered meals with DeliverLean, which has no shipping charges.

Examples of Insurance Companies and Benefit Amounts

Florida Blue: $50 per month

Wellcare: $25-50 per month

Humana: $35-$275 pe month

United HealthCare: $150 per month

Blue Shield California: $25-50 per month

Clover Health: $30-140 per quarter

Other Food Programs

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.

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.

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