Just say “no” to tobacco!

Are you or a loved one hooked on tobacco? Join the millions who’ve found a good reason to give it up—tobacco use is the second leading cause of death worldwide, responsible for 1 in every 10 adult deaths.

Medicare can help you quit smoking. Part B covers up to 8 face-to-face visits in a 12-month period when you get them from a qualified doctor or other Medicare-recognized practitioner. You pay nothing for the counseling sessions if your doctor or other health care provider accepts assignment.

Make May 31—designated by the World Health Organization as World “No Tobacco” Day—your starting point to kick the habit. Also, visit the National Cancer Institute to find free resources to help you quit smoking.

Don’t let the pressure get to you

Did you know about 1 in 3 adults in the United States has high blood pressure? You can have it for years without seeing any signs or symptoms of it. During this time, though, it can damage your heart, blood vessels, kidneys, and other parts of your body.

Not sure if you’re at risk? You may be if you:

  • Smoke
  • Eat salty foods
  • Don’t exercise enough
  • Drink more than a moderate amount of alcohol
  • Have a family history of high blood pressure
  • Are overweight

It’s important for you to know your blood pressure numbers, even when you’re feeling fine. Medicare helps make checking your blood pressure easy because it’s covered in your “Welcome to Medicare” preventive visit and yearly “wellness” visits at no cost to you.

May is National High Blood Pressure Education Month. For more information on how you can combat high blood pressure, visit the Center for Disease Control’s high blood pressure web page and check out our video.

Protect yourself from hepatitis

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 the most common types of hepatitis.

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

May is Hepatitis Awareness month. To find out more about preventing and treating hepatitis visit the Centers for Disease Control’s Hepatitis web page and check out our video.

Making complaints easier

We hope every healthcare experience you have is a positive one. That’s why we offer you a variety of tools to express your concerns. One of those tools is the ability to file a complaint (sometimes called a “grievance”).

Do you have a complaint or an appeal?

A complaint is different than an appeal. A complaint is about the way your Medicare health plan or Medicare drug plan is giving care. Examples of complaints are problems with:

Things to know before you file a complaint:

Each plan has specific rules you’ll need to know and follow when filing a complaint. If, after filing a complaint, your plan doesn’t address the issue, call 1-800-MEDICARE for help. You can also call your State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) for free, personalized help filing a complaint.

If you’ve contacted 1-800-MEDICARE but still need help, ask the 1-800-MEDICARE representative to send your inquiry or complaint to the Medicare Ombudsman’s Office. The Medicare Beneficiary Ombudsman helps you with Medicare-related complaints, grievances, and information requests.

In addition to basic information like your name and address, have your Medicare card and health plan card (if you have one) readily available when you’re ready to file your complaint. And, in the future, you can also use Medicare’s Blue Button to help. It provides you an easy way to download your personal health information to a file on your own personal computer. Check out the Blue Button through your account on MyMedicare.gov.

Older Americans Month 2015: Get into the Act.

Did you know that by the year 2020, more than 55 million U.S. adults will be over the age of 65? Older adults are a vital part of our society. Since 1963, communities across the country have shown their gratitude by celebrating Older Americans Month each May.  This year, in honor of the 50th anniversary of the Older Americans Act, we’re focusing on how older adults are taking charge of their health, getting engaged in their communities, and making a positive impact in the lives of others.

Medicare helps older adults “Get into the Act” and promotes healthy living by offering vital preventive services like mammograms, diabetes screening, and colorectal cancer screenings. If you’ve had Part B for longer than 12 months, you can get an annual wellness visit to develop or update a personalized prevention help plan to prevent disease and disability based on your current health and risk factors.

Staying active, engaged, and healthy is good advice for everyone, but it’s especially important for older people. So don’t waste any time – get into the act and take charge of your health!

Protect your bones—Medicare can help

Will a silent disease shatter your life?  Every year, a growing number of Americans are finding out that they have osteoporosis—a disease that causes bones to weaken and be more likely to break. You may not know that you have this “silent” disease until your bones are so weak that a sudden strain, bump, or fall causes your wrist to break or your hip to fracture.

Medicare can help you prevent or detect osteoporosis at an early stage, when treatment works best. Talk to your doctor about getting a bone mass measurement—if you’re at risk, Medicare covers this test once every 24 months (more often if medically necessary) when your doctor or other qualified provider orders it.

May is National Osteoporosis Awareness and Prevention Month. Learn more about what puts you at risk for osteoporosis and how to prevent and treat it at the National Osteoporosis Foundation. Watch our short video to learn more about how Medicare can help you protect your bones.

Choosing a hospital just got easier

Are you the kind of shopper who reads reviews or looks at ratings before you make a purchase? Wouldn’t it be helpful to have the same kind of ratings when choosing a hospital?

Choosing a hospital can be overwhelming. Hospitals differ in the safety and quality of care they provide.  That’s why we’ve made it easier to use the information on our Hospital Compare site by adding star ratings for patients’ experience of care.

Compare websites are a valuable source of information about the quality of health care providers and facilities. The Hospital Compare star ratings we’ve just added to the website relate to patients’ experience of care at more than 3,500 Medicare-certified acute care hospitals. The ratings are based on data from the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) Survey measures that are included on Hospital Compare. HCAHPS has been in use since 2006 to measure patients’ perspectives of hospital care, and includes topics like:

  • How well nurses and doctors communicated with patients
  • How responsive hospital staff were to patient needs
  • How clean and quiet hospital environments were
  • How well patients were prepared when they were discharged from the hospital

Sharing patients’ experience of care through star ratings is just one example of how we’re committed to helping you make health care decisions based upon available information. We’re working on adding an overall hospital star rating in 2016 to include the full range of quality measures reported on Hospital Compare.

Our Nursing Home Compare site already uses star ratings to help consumers compare nursing homes and choose one with quality in mind. Physician Compare has started to include star ratings in certain situations for physician large group practices, and we just added star ratings to our Dialysis Facility Compare site to help to make data on dialysis centers easier to understand and use. We’re planning to add star ratings to Home Health Compare later this year.