Choosing a dialysis facility 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 dialysis facility?

It can be overwhelming when you’re faced with having to choose a health care provider. Providers and facilities differ in the safety and quality of care they give, and having quality ratings available to compare providers can help you make more informed health care decisions. That’s why we’ve made it easier to use the information on our Dialysis Facility Compare (DFC) site by adding star ratings.

Compare websites are the official source for information about the quality of health care providers, and star ratings are just one of many ways we’re working to make quality information easier to understand and compare. These ratings are based on an established and respected process for developing standards. The DFC rating gives a 1 to 5-star rating based on information about the quality of care and services that a dialysis facility provides. Right now, we do this based on 9 quality measures.

The DFC ratings are just one example of how we’re commited to helping you make informed health care decisions. Our Nursing Home Compare site already uses star ratings to help consumers compare nursing homes and choose one based on quality. Physician Compare has just started to include star ratings in certain situations for physician group practices. We’re planning on adding star ratings to Hospital Compare and Home Health Compare later this year.

Protect yourself – get screened for cervical cancer

Did you know all women are at risk for cervical cancer, and it occurs most often in women over 30? Fortunately, Medicare covers 2 types of screening test – the Pap smear and human papilloma virus (HPV) test – that can help find cancer and other health problems early and improve recovery and survival rates.

January is Cervical Health Awareness Month. Watch our Cervical Health Awareness Month video and visit our cervical & vaginal cancer screenings page to learn what these tests do and how often they’re covered.

Also, visit the National Cervical Cancer Coalition website to find ways you can raise awareness about cervical cancer and how you can make a difference.

Are you at high risk for glaucoma?

Do you have diabetes or a family history of glaucoma? Are you African American and 50 or older, or are you Hispanic American and 65 or older? If so, your risk of getting glaucoma may be higher, but don’t worry – Medicare covers a glaucoma test once every 12 months for people at high risk for glaucoma.

January is National Glaucoma Awareness Month. Find out more about Medicare’s glaucoma screening coverage. Also, visit the Prevent Blindness website to see how you can join the ongoing fight against vision loss.

Get your Medicare ready for 2015

Do you make resolutions for the new year? Here are some easy ones you can keep that will help get you ready for 2015:

1. Check to see that you have the right insurance card to use when you go to the doctor in 2015. Did you change your health or drug plan during Medicare Open Enrollment? If you did and you haven’t received your new card or welcome packet by January 1st, contact your plan for help. If you need to fill a prescription right away, find out how to fill a prescription without your card.

If you changed from a Medicare Advantage Plan (like an HMO or PPO) back to Original Medicare, use your red, white, and blue Medicare card when you go to the doctor. Get a new card if you lost or damaged yours, or need to update your information.

2. Budget for next year’s Medicare Part B deductible.

Remember, if you have Medicare Part B and you’re in Original Medicare, you’ll have to meet your deductible before your Medicare coverage pays for services and supplies. Next year, the Medicare Part B deductible will be $147, the same as it was in 2014. Plan your health care budget to account for the increased cost of doctor visits for the time that it will take to cover your deductible. Find out more about Medicare costs in 2015.

3.  Schedule appointments to get any preventive tests or screenings.

Medicare covers all sorts of preventive services to keep you healthy and screenings to check for health problems, and many are covered each year at no cost to you. Ask your doctor when you should schedule your wellness visit and other screenings. You can also use MyMedicare.gov to track your visits and make a calendar of preventive services.

Talk to your doctor about these covered preventive services to find out what’s right for your health needs.

4. Make sure your drug or health plan meet your needs.

If not, Medicare has a way for you to get the coverage you want instead of having to wait for the next Open Enrollment. At any time during the year, you can switch to a Medicare Advantage Plan or Medicare Prescription Drug Plan that has a 5-star rating.

Plan ratings are based on member surveys, information from doctors and health care providers, and other sources. The plan ratings are scores that show the quality and performance of the plan, on a scale of 1 to 5 stars, with 5 being the highest rated plans.

You can make this change once per calendar year. Find 5-star health and drug plans in your area.

Remember to check www.medicare.gov for the latest Medicare news and information, and have a happy and healthy new year!

Medicare Open Enrollment: is Medicare still on your “to do” list?

“To do” lists are very helpful during this hectic time of year. If something important isn’t written down, it’s easy to forget. If you still haven’t crossed off “Compare Medicare coverage” from your to do list, time is running out!

Medicare Open Enrollment ends this week on December 7. To help you sort through your choices, try using the Medicare Plan Finder. You can review the plan options in your area and decide the best mix of benefits and costs that meets your needs and budget.

In these last few days of Medicare Open Enrollment, take a moment to review your health care coverage and see if you need to make any changes for next year. If you decide you’re happy with the plan you have now, and the plan’s still being offered next year, you don’t need to do anything. But if you’re thinking about making any changes, now’s the time to act so you can cross another item off your to do list.

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.