Say “no” to tobacco!

This year include tobacco in your annual spring cleaning, and kick those cigarette butts in the, well, butt!  Why? Because tobacco use is the second leading cause of death worldwide, responsible for 1 in every 10 adult deaths. If you or someone you love is ready to quit smoking, we can help.

Medicare can help you quit smoking

Part B covers free counseling sessions as a preventive service to help you quit smoking. If you haven’t been diagnosed with an illness caused or complicated by tobacco use, and if the doctor or other health care provider accepts assignment, then you pay nothing for the counseling sessions.

If you’ve already been diagnosed with an illness that was caused or made worse by tobacco use, or you take a medicine affected by tobacco, you can still get up to 8 counseling sessions every 12 months. In this case, you pay your Part B deductible and 20% of the Medicare-approved amount. (If you get counseling in a hospital outpatient setting, you’ll also need to pay the hospital a copayment.)

Let’s get started!

Bring out the trash bags and the brooms – it’s time for a clean start this spring. Visit the Centers for Disease Control and the National Cancer Institute to learn more about how you can quit smoking.

CMS Promotes Value for Seniors and Persons with Disabilities in Medicare Plans

By Jonathan Blum, Acting Principal Deputy Administrator and Director, Center for Medicare

With today’s regulation limiting overhead and profits for Medicare Advantage and prescription drug plans, the Affordable Care Act continues to promote value for consumers’ and taxpayers’ health care spending. These new requirements apply to Medicare health and drug plans offered by private insurance companies serving over 37 million seniors and persons with disabilities, and build on a similar regulation we issued last year requiring a minimum medical loss ratio for health plans serving consumers in the private insurance market. Medicare health and drug plans, beginning next year, must meet a minimum medical loss ratio, limiting their spending on non-health related items such as administrative costs, profit, or overhead. More specifically, this means that the plans must spend at least 85 percent of their revenue on direct benefits to Medicare enrollees such as clinical services, prescription drugs and quality improving activities.

The new Medicare MLR requirements will also give people with Medicare and their caregivers more information about Medicare plans when comparing their health care options during enrollment periods. They will be able to consider a plan’s medical loss ratio, along with quality ratings, coverage, premiums and other factors that influence their health care decisions.

By ensuring that plan payments are spent on health care and activities that improve the quality of care received, seniors and persons with disabilities will have more opportunities to work with their doctors and other health care professionals to stay healthy. With Medicare spending already growing at a slower pace, the new requirements are just one more way the Affordable Care Act is creating more value for seniors and persons with disabilities. We are excited about new initiatives and projects that are improving the health of people with Medicare and are committed to making a stronger Medicare program.

Older Americans Month 2013: Unleash the Power of Age!

For 50 years, May has been the month we celebrate older adults across the nation. You could say that Older Americans Month is coming of age. This year’s theme—“Unleash the Power of Age!”—emphasizes older Americans’ potential for energy and activism and urges them to embrace it.

There’s no age limit on achievement—and older Americans are doing incredible things. They make a difference in their communities by continuing their careers, pursuing new business ventures, and volunteering in their retirement years.  To find ways to get involved in your community, visit Serve.gov.

Staying active, engaged, and healthy is good advice for everyone, but it’s especially important for older people. The U.S Administration on Aging (AoA), supports older adults through programs and resources to encourage healthy living. In addition, the Affordable Care Act is making certain vital preventive services, such as mammograms, diabetes screening, and an annual wellness visit, available for seniors with Medicare.  Also, check out Go4Life, an exercise and physical activity campaign from the National Institute on Aging at NIH.

Throughout the year, and especially during Older Americans Month in May, we urge all Americans to appreciate and celebrate the vitality, aspirations, and achievements of elders and their contributions to society.

Get your blood pressure checked regularly

Do you or does someone you know have high blood pressure? Most likely, your answer is yes. More than one-third of adults in the United States have high blood pressure, and many don’t even know it. High blood pressure increases your risk of heart disease, the #1 killer worldwide, and many other diseases. That’s why it’s important to get your blood pressure checked regularly.

Medicare helps make checking your blood pressure easy. A blood pressure screening is covered in your “Welcome to Medicare” visit and your Yearly Wellness visit at no cost to you.

There are also many ways to prevent and help treat high blood pressure. Eating a healthy diet and avoiding sodium are easy ways to lower blood pressure. Maintaining a healthy weight and being physically active are also important. The surgeon general recommends at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity most days of the week. You can also check your blood pressure between your yearly visits for free at many pharmacies, senior centers, and health fairs.

May is National High Blood Pressure Education Month, watch our video to learn more.

Protect yourself from Hepatitis B

Did you know that 1.2 million people in the U.S. have chronic Hepatitis B, but many more people don’t know they’re infected because they have no symptoms? Hepatitis B is a contagious liver disease that can range in severity from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a serious illness that can lead to liver disease or liver cancer.

Medicare can help keep you protected from Hepatitis B. The best way to prevent Hepatitis B is by getting the Hepatitis B vaccine, which is usually given as 3 shots over a 6-month period. You need to get all 3 shots for complete coverage. If you’re at high or medium risk for Hepatitis B, Medicare Part B will cover Hepatitis B shots for free.

Are you at risk for getting Hepatitis B? If you have hemophilia, End-Stage Renal Disease (ESRD), diabetes, or certain conditions that lower your resistance to infection, you have a higher risk for getting Hepatitis B increases.  Additionally, if you have a profession that puts you in frequent contact with blood or bodily fluids, you may be at a higher risk.

May is Hepatitis Awareness month. To find out more about preventing and treating Hepatitis B, visit the Centers for Disease Control.

Protect your bones—Medicare can help

Do you keep putting off exercise? You may be hurting your bones. Lack of exercise is one of the risk factors that can lead to osteoporosis. When people have osteoporosis their bones become less dense. You may not know that you have osteoporosis 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—it may be free.

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