What can I buy with my OTC card in 2023? A Complete Guide

Over-the-counter (OTC) benefit cards have become a popular addition to many Medicare Advantage plans in recent years. These prepaid debit cards give members a quarterly or monthly allowance that can be used to purchase approved OTC health and wellness products.

If you have an OTC card, you may be wondering – what can I actually buy with this? Here is a comprehensive guide to using your OTC benefit card and getting the most value from it in 2023.

What is an OTC card benefit?

An OTC card is a prepaid debit card that is preloaded with a specific dollar amount each quarter or month, depending on your plan. This allowance can only be used to purchase eligible over-the-counter health and wellness products.

The card allows you to shop for OTC items either in-store at participating retailers or order them online, by phone, or mail-in catalog for home delivery. When you use the card at checkout, the amount is deducted from your balance.

OTC card benefits are offered with many Medicare Advantage plans to help offset healthcare costs not covered under traditional Medicare like Part A and Part B.

What types of OTC items are eligible for purchase?

The OTC items that can be purchased with your prepaid card fall into the following general categories:

  • Allergy, sinus, cold and flu
  • Pain relief
  • Home health care and daily living
  • Braces, supports and wraps
  • Dental and oral health
  • Eye and ear care
  • First aid
  • Smoking cessation
  • Diabetes care
  • Foot care
  • Digestive health
  • Incontinence
  • Skin care
  • Sleep aids
  • Vitamins and supplements

Within these categories, you can find hundreds of generic and brand name OTC products. This includes medications like acetaminophen and ibuprofen as well as health items like toothbrushes, reading glasses, compression socks, and much more.

Your plan likely provides a detailed list of all eligible items covered under your specific OTC benefit. This is usually in the form of a catalog or can be found on the plan’s website.

Are there any restrictions on what I can purchase?

While OTC benefit cards give you the ability to purchase hundreds of useful health items, there are some restrictions:

  • Only eligible OTC products are covered: The card can only be used to buy approved OTC items in the categories outlined above. It cannot be used to purchase prescription medications or non-health related merchandise.

  • Benefit amounts cannot roll over: Any unused funds left on the card at the end of the quarter or month are forfeited. The balance resets with your new allowance each period.

  • No cash withdrawals: The cards cannot be used to withdraw cash at an ATM or receive cash back at retailers.

  • Card can only be used by the member: The OTC benefit is for your use only as the member. Do not share or give your card to others.

Following these restrictions allows the card to be used for its intended purpose – keeping you healthy!

How much does my OTC benefit provide?

The quarterly or monthly dollar amount loaded onto your OTC card will vary depending on a few factors:

  • Your Medicare Advantage plan: Each insurance company and specific plan offers different OTC allowance amounts. Shop around to find the best benefit.

  • Where you live: Those residing in higher cost-of-living areas may receive higher quarterly allotments.

  • Special needs plans: For example, dual-eligible special needs plans may offer monthly OTC/food/utility allowances.

To find out your exact benefit amount, check your plan materials or call customer service. Just remember that balances reset to the full amount with each new period.

Here are some sample quarterly OTC dollar amounts to give you an idea of what to expect:

  • $30 – $60 per quarter
  • $75 – $100 per quarter
  • $150 – $230 per quarter

When can I start using my OTC card?

You can begin using your prepaid OTC card as soon as you receive it in the mail. Your Medicare Advantage plan sends out the debit card along with instructions on how to activate it and start shopping.

Here is an overview of when funds are loaded:

  • For quarterly allowances: The full balance is added on the first day of each quarter – January 1, April 1, July 1, and October 1.

  • For monthly allowances: The full balance is added on the first day of each month.

Once your card is activated, the funds are there and ready to use. Just be sure to use up your balance by the end of the period when it expires.

Where can I use my OTC card in 2023?

One major benefit of OTC cards is that they give you ultimate flexibility and options when shopping for items. You can use your prepaid card:

  • At major retail stores nationwide – This includes major chains like Walmart, Walgreens, Rite Aid, CVS, Dollar General, Kroger, H-E-B, and more.

  • To order online – Browse catalogs and make purchases right from your computer.

  • To order over the phone – Call and place an order with a representative.

  • To order by mail – Some plans let you fill out and return order forms.

Your Medicare Advantage plan should provide a list of eligible retailers and instructions for online, phone, and mail ordering if available. This gives you the freedom to shop for OTC items any way that is most convenient for you.

How do I check my OTC card balance?

Checking your prepaid card balance is easy and important to make sure you maximize your benefit each period. Here are a few ways to check:

  • Call the number on the back of your card – There is usually a toll-free number to call for balance inquiries.

  • Check online – Many plans let you register your card on a website and view balances.

  • Use the mobile app – Download the OTC benefit app to check your balance and eligible items.

  • Check receipts – Your balance will print on each receipt after using your card in-store.

Monitoring your balance helps prevent your funds from expiring at quarter or year end. Use up the full amount if possible.

Tips for using your OTC card wisely

Follow these tips and tricks to make the most of your OTC benefit card:

  • Check expiration dates – Avoid wasting funds on items that will expire before you can use them up.

  • Buy multiples of your most-used items – Stock up on your OTC essentials like pain relievers and allergy meds.

  • ** Prioritize your health needs** – Purchase items that are specifically helpful for your conditions.

  • Price compare – Shop around and compare prices to stretch your dollars.

  • Roll over unused funds (if allowed) – Some plans let you roll over a few dollars to the next period.

  • Use brand name rewards programs – Link your OTC card to rewards accounts to earn extra discounts.

  • Combine with coupons – Check for manufacturer coupons on eligible items to save more.

Using these smart shopping tips will help you spend your OTC dollars wisely!

Frequently Asked Questions about OTC benefit cards

If you are new to using an OTC benefit card, here are answers to some common questions:

What should I do if my card is lost or stolen?

Report a lost or stolen card immediately to prevent unauthorized use. Your plan will cancel your card and issue a replacement with any remaining balance transferred over.

Can I order OTC items online for home delivery?

Yes, most plans allow you to order items online through retailers like CVS or Walgreens. Some plans have special catalogs and websites specifically for OTC home delivery.

Do I need a prescription for OTC items purchased with this card?

No, a prescription is not required. The card covers over-the-counter products that do not need a prescription.

Are supplies like bandages and braces eligible?

Yes, health supplies like bandaids, gauze, braces, compression stockings, and more can be purchased as long as they are on your plan’s approved list.

Can I buy groceries or pet food with this card?

No. The card can only be used to purchase approved OTC health and wellness merchandise from the categories outlined above.

What if my card declines at checkout for a product I thought was eligible?

If your OTC card is declined, it likely means the product is not on the approved list. Check your list and call customer service if you have any questions.

Get the Most from Your OTC Benefit Card

Having an OTC benefit card can greatly help offset healthcare costs by providing funds for essential over-the-counter items. Make sure to check your quarterly or monthly balance, shop for approved products wisely, and take advantage

Peoples Health 2023 Food, Over-the-Counter (OTC) + Utility Bill Credit Benefit


What does OTC card not cover?

OTC items are not eligible for reimbursement if they are normally used for general health, are not used to treat a medical condition (e.g. toothpaste, mouthwash, lotion, shampoo) or are cosmetic in nature (e.g. teeth whitening products, wrinkle reducers). See additional examples in the OTC Chart.

What does the OTC card pay for?

Each insurance provider has a list of items covered by their Medicare Advantage OTC card. Common products covered include OTC drugs and medical products, such as: Cough and cold medications. Antibiotic ointments.

What is OTC in grocery?

Ready, set, shop. Take advantage of credits every month to spend on covered over-the-counter (OTC) products and healthy food.*

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