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Healthy Food

No, Standard Medicare Doesn’t Cover ‘Grocery Benefit Programs’

In March 2023, a number of ads online claimed a “Grocery Benefit Program” or “Healthy Foods Allowance” would allow seniors to receive money each month for groceries, often by using a Medicare program.

Many of these ads were sponsored content on Google, which we’ve written about before.

One website claimed seniors could qualify for $900 to pay for groceries using the “Healthy Allowance” program. No time period was specified.

Another website claimed Americans over 64 could get over $3,600 to use for groceries, utilities, and over-the-counter items. No time period was specified there, either. Americans are eligible for Medicare beginning at age 65.

A third website claimed a $900 “Healthy Food Allowance” would be paid per year through new Medicare plans. The same website also claimed a “1400 OTC Allowance” would pay for grocery savings and other everyday items through Medicare plans. (OTC stands for over the counter, referring to medicine you don’t need a prescription for.)

Videos about a supposed $900 grocery allowance using Medicare have also been found on TikTok and Facebook.

There is no actual “Grocery Benefit Program” or “Healthy Food Allowance” program. These webpages appeared to be designed so their authors could earn affiliate compensation for any clicks on the pages. The main Medicare program doesn’t provide money for groceries.

The main Medicare program has three parts: Part A, Part B, and Part D. Part A covers inpatient hospital care, while Part B covers medical care like services from doctors and other health care providers. Part D helps cover the cost of prescription drugs.

Supplemental versions of Medicare can provide money for groceries.

Also known as Part C, Medicare Advantage Plans allow private insurers to provide Medicare benefits as well as some additional services not available under the original Medicare program.

These services can include groceries, as well as other living expenses. Most plans don’t give as much money as $900, let alone $1,400 or $3,600. They vary in what food expenses are allowed, what grocery stores participate, and who is eligible to sign up for the plans.

For example, Humana’s Healthy Options allowance for Medicare Advantage members gives $35-275 per month depending on plan and location. The plan said it covers living expenses like eligible groceries, utilities, rent and pet food.

At least one website has written about these services like they were programs covered by the main Medicare program before.

Marca, a website based in Spain mainly focused on sports, published an article about a “Medicare Grocery Allowance Benefit.” While the post made it sound like the benefit is a national program in the US, it matched a discontinued Clover Health grocery program the insurance company provided for its Medicare Advantage customers in 2022.

In the past, we covered other misleading ads found online. They’ve included “Alpine Ice Hacks,” email phishing scams promising $500 Ulta Beauty gift cards and why cat owners should stop cuddling with their feline companions.

Sources

Grocery Plus Benefits with Medicare Advantage | CloverHealth. https://www.cloverhealth.com/en/members/grocery-plus-benefit-medicare-advantage. Accessed March 21 2023.

Healthy Options Allowance (Formerly Healthy Foods Card) | Humana. https://www.humana.com/medicare/medicare-programs/healthy-options-allowance. Accessed March 21 2023.

How Do Medicare Advantage Plans Work? | Medicare. https://www.medicare.gov/sign-upchange-plans/types-of-medicare-health-plans/medicare-advantage-plans/how-do-medicare-advantage-plans-work. Accessed March 21 2023.

Liles, Jordan. “‘Alpine Ice Hack’ Ads for Alpilean ‘Weight Loss’ Mislead.” Snopes, Feb. 1 2023, https://www.snopes.com/news/2023/02/01/alpine-ice-hack-alpilean-youtube-ad/.

—. “Snopestionary: What Is Sponsored Content?” Snopes19 July 2022, https://www.snopes.com/articles/434176/what-is-sponsored-content/.

—. “‘Stop Cuddling With Your Cat,’ Misleading Ad Claims.” Snopes, Dec. 9 2021, https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/stop-cuddling-with-your-cat/.

—. “Ulta Beauty Email Scam Promises $500 Gift Card.” Snopes, Jan. 9 2023, https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/ulta-beauty-email-scam-500-gift-card/.

“Medicare Grocery Allowance Benefit: How Does the Grocery Plus Benefit Work?” MARCA, 26 Oct. 2022, https://www.marca.com/en/lifestyle/us-news/personal-finance/2022/10/26/6358e089ca4741967e8b4592.html.

Parts of Medicare | Medicare. https://www.medicare.gov/basics/get-started-with-medicare/medicare-basics/parts-of-medicare. Accessed March 21 2023.