Medicare Open Enrollment is coming soon – do you need to make a change?

As the days get shorter and the nights get cooler, you can already see the leaves starting to change. Like the changing leaves, the fall also brings your chance to make changes to your Medicare coverage. That’s because October 15 – December 7 is Medicare Open Enrollment. It’s your chance to review your health care coverage and see if you need to make any changes for next year. Or, you may decide you’re happy with the plan you have now. If that’s the case, and the plan is still being offered next year, you don’t need to do anything.

Over the next few months, look around – you’ll find a wealth of information about your Medicare benefits, especially in these everyday places:

1. In the mail

Look through your mail carefully — you may get important notices from your current plan, Medicare, or Social Security about changes to your coverage or any Extra Help you may get paying for prescription drugs.

Also, look for your Medicare & You handbook. It contains information about all of the Medicare plans in your area. If you decided to “go paperless,” you’ll get an email pointing you to Medicare.gov where you can get all the same information.

You’ll also start to see brochures from companies that offer Medicare health and drug plans. Just remember, be smart about protecting your personal information and your identity — plans aren’t allowed to call or come to your home without an invitation from you.

2. On your computer

Comparing your plan choices is important. Our Medicare Plan Finder is ready with all of the 2015 health and drug plan cost information to make it as easy as possible. Enter the drugs you take to find out how you can lower your costs and review the plan’s ratings to compare plan quality. If you find a plan that meets your needs, you’ll be able to join the plan right online starting October 15. If you haven’t used the Plan Finder before, check out our video to help you get started.

3. In your community

Take a moment as you enjoy these crisp mornings to review the Medicare information that’s out there. You may find a local event — somewhere right around the corner with counselors to help you, like your State Health Insurance Assistance Program. Don’t miss the chance to get personalized help if you need it!

Did you get your mammogram this year?

Mammograms are breast cancer screening tests that can detect a lump before you or your doctor can feel it. This helps to detect breast cancer early, when it’s most treatable. All women over 40 should have a mammogram every 12 months – and Medicare covers it at no cost if your doctor accepts assignment. Talk to your doctor about risk factors and to schedule your next screening.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, so let’s spread the word on the fight against breast cancer.

Need therapy services? Be sure you know Medicare’s limits

Are you getting physical therapy after a hip replacement? Speech-language pathology services after a stroke? Anytime you get outpatient physical therapy, occupational therapy, or speech-language pathology services, be sure you know the limits for how much Medicare will pay.

Medicare helps pay for medically-necessary outpatient physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech-language pathology services. There are limits, called “therapy caps,” on these services when you get them from most outpatient providers.

The therapy cap limits for 2014 are:

  • $1,920 for physical therapy (PT) and speech-language pathology (SLP) services combined
  • $1,920 for occupational therapy (OT) services

You may qualify to get an exception so that Medicare will continue to pay its share for your services after you reach the therapy cap limits.

October is National Physical Therapy Month – take the time to learn more about Medicare’s limits on therapy services.

Go Green with “Medicare & You”

Love your red, white, and blue “Medicare & You” handbook but love the convenience of getting information on your computer, tablet, or phone even more?

You can get all of the same information in your printed handbook online at Medicare.gov. Learn what’s new, get Medicare costs, and find out what Medicare covers. Even better, the handbook information on the web is updated regularly, so you can instantly find the most up-to-date Medicare information.

Visit Medicare.gov to do a lot of things on your own like replace your Medicare card, change your address, sign up or make changes to your Medicare coverage, and find out important dates. All this in time for October 15 – the start of Medicare Open Enrollment.

Take advantage of some other great features to get just what you need:

  • Search quickly for what you want and print only the pages you need, while getting the latest, up-to-date official Medicare information, including the most recent list of available plans
  • Get “Medicare & You” in different formats like large print, eBook or audio
  • Subscribe to get an email when information is updated
  • Access personalized information at MyMedicare.gov

And, if you’d like to trade in your printed copy for a paperless version, we’ve got you covered. You can choose to get your next “Medicare & You” handbook electronically by using the “go paperless” option. In a few simple steps, you’ll be all set. Sign up today, and we’ll send you an email including a link to the new online Medicare & You. It’s instant, current, and convenient.

Medicare covers yearly prostate cancer screenings

Did you know prostate cancer is the most common cancer in American men?

Help prevent prostate cancer from affecting you or the men in your life. If you’re a man who’s 50 or older, you can get screened for prostate cancer every 12 months.

Your Medicare Part B (Medical Insurance) covers 2 tests to help find prostate cancer early, when treatment works best:

  • Digital rectal exam—You pay 20% of the Medicare-approved amount after the yearly Part B deductible. In a hospital outpatient setting, you pay a copayment.
  • Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) test—Free to all men with Medicare 50 and older (coverage for this test begins the day after your 50th birthday). If you get the test from a doctor that doesn’t accept assignment, you may have to pay an additional fee for the doctor’s services, but not for the test itself.

Learn more about prostate cancer by visiting the American Cancer Society, the National Cancer Institute, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Getting shots doesn’t have to be a pain

Are you taking precautions to make sure you stay healthy?  Just like you take your car for scheduled maintenance, it’s important to do what you can to take care of your body.  Medicare covers many preventive services, and we make it easy for you to get these 3 shots:

  1. Flu Shots—Covered once a flu season in the fall or winter. 
  2. Hepatitis B ShotsCovered for people at high or medium risk for Hepatitis B (usually a series of 3 shots).
  3. Pneumococcal ShotCovered to help prevent pneumococcal infections (like certain types of pneumonia). Most people only need this shot once in their lifetime.

As we approach the fall, you’ll see these shots offered in many places, such as your local pharmacy, so make sure you take advantage of them. You pay nothing as long as the supplier or doctor accepts assignment for giving the shot.

A strong immune system is way more important than your car, so make the time to stay healthy and take a few minutes to watch our video on National Immunization Awareness Month.

Medicare protects you on World Hepatitis Day and every day

Did you know that hepatitis, an inflammation of the liver caused by a virus, affects millions of people worldwide, resulting in acute and chronic liver disease and killing close to 1.4 million people every year?

Hepatitis is contagious. For example, the Hepatitis B virus spreads through contact with the blood or other body fluids of an infected person. People can also get infected by coming in contact with a contami­nated object, where the virus can live for up to 7 days. Hepatitis B can range from being a mild illness, lasting a few weeks (acute), to a serious long-term illness (chronic) that can lead to liver disease or liver cancer.

Medicare can help keep you protected from some of the common strains of hepatitis: Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B.

Generally, Medicare Part D (prescription drug coverage) covers Hepatitis A shots when medically necessary.

Medicare Part B (Medical Insurance) covers Hepatitis B shots, which usually are given as a series of 3 shots over a 6-month period (you need all 3 shots for complete protection).

There’s a third type of Hepatitis—Hepatitis C. Medicare covers a one-time Hepatitis C screening test if your primary care doctor or practitioner orders it and you meet one of these conditions:

  • You’re at high risk because you have a current or past history of illicit injection drug use
  • You had a blood transfusion before 1992, or
  • You were born between 1945 and 1965

July 28 is World Hepatitis Day. Find out how you can prevent and treat hepatitis by visiting the World Health Organization’s World Hepatitis Day web page.