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Accepting Medicare Advantage Healthy Benefit Cards: Payment Technology Considerations For Independent Grocers

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by Ted Mason / Retail Technology Consultant

Medicare Advantage healthy benefit cards offer a convenient way for eligible individuals to access their healthcare benefits, such as monthly allotments for the purchase of groceries and health-related products. More than 30 million Americans are now enrolled in Medicare Advantage programs, and at least 5 million participants are now receiving healthy benefit cards through their health plan.

As an independent grocer, understanding and implementing the necessary payment technology to accept these cards is essential for providing a seamless experience to your customers.

The following is designed to help individuals with limited knowledge of Medicare Advantage healthy benefit card technology understand the process and requirements for accepting these cards, focusing on how Medicare advantage plans from Humana, United Healthcare and others contract with payment networks such as Solutran, Nations Benefits and INCOMM. These payment networks provide the infrastructure and technology necessary for processing transactions made with these cards.

Large Merchants vs. Small Merchants

Large merchants like Kroger and Walmart typically have in-house technology resources and dedicated teams to develop, implement required interfaces and maintain the payment systems needed to accept Medicare Advantage healthy benefit cards. These large grocers can incorporate card acceptance technology from payment network providers into their existing electronic payment and point-of-sale (POS) systems. They also have the capability to work with the health insurance and card networks to continuously update their infrastructure to remain compliant with any changes to Medicare regulations.

On the other hand, independent grocers currently lack technology support from POS providers such as NCR and Toshiba to accept most cards . This creates a challenge for independent grocers who are reliant upon the payment network providers as well as their POS providers, to provide the capability to accept Medicare Advantage healthy benefit cards.

Understand the Costs

Ask card payment network providers how much the fees will be for accepting these cards. Will there be a fixed per transaction fee or a combination of a transaction and a percentage of the shopper basket fee? Will there be monthly fees for settlement and reporting?

Work with the health insurance provider and card network provider to determine how many cards may be distributed in your market area. While every customer is important, will the cost of implementing card acceptance provide a return on your investment?

Understand the Partnerships

Familiarize yourself with the relationships between Medicare Advantage plans, such as those from Humana and United Healthcare, and payment networks like Solutran, Nations Benefits and INCOMM. This will help you understand the technology infrastructure and support needed for independent grocers to begin accepting these cards.

Choose the Right POS Provider

For independent grocers considering replacing their current POS system, selecting a POS provider that is compatible with the chosen payment network provider’s technology is crucial. Look for providers with success in implementing and supporting this new payment technology.

Consider reaching out with your POS dealer to POS manufacturers to request support for these cards. Examine the costs associated with adding the capability to accept these cards.

Understand the Requirements

Familiarize yourself with the specific requirements for accepting Medicare Advantage healthy benefit cards. These may include compliance with certain security standards, processing guidelines, item eligibility requirements and reimbursement for transactions completed with the cards.

Train Your Staff

Ensure your staff is trained in how to process transactions involving Medicare Advantage healthy benefit cards. Just as there are certain steps during a transaction to process WIC and SNAP transactions, Medicare Advantage cards may involve new cashier steps in making sure all card payments work correctly. This includes understanding the card types, transaction processes and any specific steps required for processing these transactions. Use NGA’s signage until you are able to accept these cards.

Integrate Payment Technology

Your POS provider will need to integrate the necessary technology for accepting Medicare Advantage healthy benefit cards. This may involve installing new modules or plug-ins and configuring your system to recognize and process these transactions. Your third-party payments processor may also need to be involved.

Test the System

Before rolling out the updated payment system to customers, test the functionality to ensure that transactions involving Medicare Advantage healthy benefit cards can be processed successfully. This may involve running test transactions, testing for item eligibility conflicts with other existing payments and verifying that the system is working as intended.

Stay Informed About Changes

Keep up to date with any changes to Medicare Advantage healthy benefit card requirements or payment technology. This will help you maintain compliance and ensure your payment system continues to function correctly.

Accepting Medicare Advantage has become a critical competitive need for independent grocers. The National Grocers Association is actively working with Medicare Advantage plans and technology providers seeking new capabilities for independent grocers to accept these cards.

NGA has asked the key stakeholders to fix this problem by Q3, and many technology providers are beginning to roll out capabilities with Solutran, Nations Benefits and INCOMM. NGA will soon begin sharing on its website which POS system providers have healthy benefit card capabilities.

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