Medicare is ready to help you quit smoking

Every year, more people die from lung cancer than any other type of cancer and smoking is the leading cause. Don’t become a statistic – Medicare is ready to help you quit smoking. Talk to your doctor today and cross one thing off your list.

Besides being famous for Thanksgiving, November is also Lung Cancer Awareness Month and the Great American Smokeout. While you’re making lists for the upcoming holiday season, make a note to talk with your doctor about quitting if you smoke. Medicare covers 8 face-to-face smoking cessation counseling sessions during a 12-month period. If you haven’t been diagnosed with an illness caused or complicated by tobacco use, you pay nothing for these counseling sessions, as long as you get them from a qualified doctor or another Medicare provider.

Prescription drug plan premiums: make it automatic

We like when things are automatic. From smart phone reminders to automatic coffee makers – it’s nice when something’s done before we even need to think about doing it. Whether you’ve already picked a new plan for 2015, or decided to keep the plan you had in 2014, one thing you might not have thought about is paying the monthly premium.

Most Medicare drug plans charge a monthly premium that varies by plan. You pay this in addition to your Medicare Part B premium. It’s important to pay this premium on time to keep your coverage and the peace of mind that comes with it.

Did you know that you can have this premium automatically deducted from your monthly Social Security payment? All you need to do is contact your Medicare drug plan (not Social Security). Your first deduction will usually take 3 months to start, and 3 months of premiums will likely be deducted at once. After that, only one premium will be deducted each month. You may also see a delay in premiums being withheld if you switch plans. If you want to stop premium deductions and get billed directly, just let your plan know.

Take the worry and guesswork out of when to pay your premium bills – contact your plan today.

Saving money on health costs: Medicare’s Extra Help

Have you ever found yourself skipping a day of your medication or cutting your pills in half to make your supply last a little longer? Or, have you put off filling a prescription because you’re having trouble making ends meet? If so, we can help. Medicare has a special program called “Extra Help.” If you have limited income and resources, you can sign up to get help paying things like your monthly premium, annual deductible, and prescription copayments in your Medicare drug plan. In 2015, drug costs for most people who qualify will be no more than $2.65 for each generic drug and $6.60 for each brand-name drug.

Even if you’re not sure you’d qualify, it’s worth filling out an application to see. Many people with Medicare may be eligible for the Extra Help program but don’t even know it. Are you or a family member one of them?

It’s easy and free to apply for Extra Help. Here’s how:

Don’t wait – apply today to see if you qualify for some extra help with your health costs.

Medicare Open Enrollment: the value of convenience

Have you ever bought milk from the convenience store just around the corner even though it’s a bit more expensive than buying it at the grocery store? Most of us have made decisions to do or not do something based on convenience.

The same is true when it comes to choosing a health plan: convenience matters. In addition to cost, coverage, and benefits, here are some other things you may want to consider as you compare Medicare options this year:

Doctor and hospital choice

You want to be comfortable with the people you’re working with, especially when it comes to something as private as your health. Do the doctors you know accept your coverage? Where are the doctors’ offices? What are their hours? Do they often keep you waiting?

Pharmacy access

Is the pharmacy you use included in your drug plan’s network? Do they e-prescribe? Can you get refills by mail? Remember that plan networks can change from year to year. If it’s important to you to stay with the same pharmacy, check to make sure they’ll still be in your plan’s network.

Travel

Do you travel a lot, or spend part of the year in a different state? If so, see if your coverage will travel with you.

Quality

Ask yourself whether you’re truly satisfied with your medical care. Not all health care is created equal, and the doctors, hospitals and facilities you choose can impact your health. Look for plans with a 5‑star performance rating — the right expertise and care may help speed your recovery and improve your outcomes.

Your time is valuable — and so is your health. Only you know what mix of coverage and convenience is most important to you and your family.

We’re working hard to make sure you have choices in the way you get the Medicare benefits you’ve earned – and we want you to be comfortable. Use the Medicare Plan Finder to look at all of the health and drug plan options in your area.

 

Care for the Caregiver?

Family caregivers provide an average of 20 hours of care per week – when you’re the caregiver, that can make it hard for you to care for yourself.

November is National Family Caregiver Month – a perfect opportunity to reach out for help if you’re caring for someone with Medicare. If you’re a caregiver, here are 4 things you can do this month to help you help your loved one:

  1. Check out our caregiver resources.
  2. Make sure your loved one’s Medicare coverage still meets their needs. Medicare Open Enrollment is from now until December 7, and it’s important to take a few minutes to review coverage and pick a plan that works for your loved one.
  3. Find resources near you by visiting the Administration on Aging’s Eldercare Locator.

This month is also a perfect opportunity to make sure you are getting the care you need for yourself. If you or someone you’re caring for is uninsured, learn more about the Health Insurance Marketplace.

Diabetes screenings, supplies, and training – Medicare has you covered

Diabetes affects millions of people – are you one of them? November is American Diabetes Month and a perfect time to find out about the supplies and self-management training that Medicare covers to help you manage your diabetes. Many people with diabetes don’t know that they have it – and Medicare covers screening tests so you can find out if you do.

If you’re at high risk for developing diabetes, Medicare covers up to two fasting blood glucose (blood sugar) tests each year. If your doctor accepts assignment, you pay nothing for these tests. You may be at high risk for diabetes if you’re obese, have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or a family history of diabetes. Talk to your doctor to find out when you should get your free screening test.

If you have diabetes, Medicare covers many of your supplies, including test strips, monitors, and control solutions. In some cases, Medicare also covers therapeutic shoes if you have diabetic foot problems. You pay 20% of the Medicare-approved amount for these supplies.

Medicare also covers diabetes self-management training to help you learn how to better manage your diabetes. You can learn how to monitor your blood sugar, control your diet, exercise, and manage your prescriptions. Talk to your doctor about how this training can help you stay healthy and avoid serious complications.

Take control of your health – talk to your doctor today about screening tests and what supplies and training you may need for your health.

Focusing on comfort & support: hospice care

Choosing to stop curative treatment is a scary moment for anyone. You worry about your family, the quality of the care you’ll receive, and keeping your dignity.

For over 30 years Medicare has covered hospice care, so that those who are terminally ill can spend the last moments of their lives with dignity and comfort, among their loved ones. The focus is on comfort and support, not on curing an illness.

Deciding you need Hospice care is a difficult choice to make, and it’s important to be informed about what Hospice covers. Here are a few of the services Hospice provides:

  • Care is generally provided in the home.
  • A specially trained team of professionals and caregivers provide care for the “whole person,” including your physical, emotional, social, and spiritual needs.
  • Services typically include physical care, counseling, drugs, equipment, and supplies for the terminal illness and related conditions.
  • Family caregivers can get support.
  • Once you choose hospice care, your hospice benefit should cover everything you need.

For more information about hospice, you can visit Medicare.gov. To find a hospice program, talk to your doctor or call your state hospice organization.

When you need us, we’ll be here.