Hospice care: comfort and support at a difficult time

It’s never easy to face all of the difficult decisions that come with a terminal illness, like considering whether hospice is right for you. For some people, the thought of hospice can be scary, but it’s important to learn about your options.

Medicare covers hospice care so that those who are terminally ill can spend the last moments of their lives with dignity and comfort, among loved ones. Hospice focuses on comfort or “palliative care,” not 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.

November is National Hospice and Palliative Care Month, a good time to learn more about the care and support available to people who are terminally ill.

When you need us, we’ll be here.

Help for the caregiver

Are you caring for an aged, seriously ill or disabled family member? If so, you’re one of approximately 66 million Americans who care for loved ones with a chronic illness, disability, or frailty. 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 3 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.

Need diabetes screening, supplies or training? We’ve got you covered.

Millions of Americans have or are at risk for diabetes. November is American Diabetes Month, an ideal time for you to find out if you’re at risk and learn about the self-management training and supplies Medicare covers if you do have diabetes.

Many people with diabetes don’t know that they have it—fortunately, 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 2 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.

Medicare also offers the Everyone with Diabetes Counts (EDC) program to some people with Medicare who live in underserved and rural communities. This program offers weekly group sessions (typically lasting 6 to 10 weeks) that help people effectively self-manage their diabetes by learning about topics like nutrition, exercise, self-monitoring, diabetes medications and community resources and support. If you’re eligible, you pay nothing to participate in the program. To find out if you’re eligible or if there’s an available class near you, contact the Quality Innovation Network – Quality Improvement Organization (QIN-QIO) in your state.

You can learn more about American Diabetes Month and how to prevent and treat this disease from the American Diabetes Association at diabetes.org.

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

Medicare Open Enrollment: Peace of mind with extra coverage

Making a big purchase can be stressful, whether it’s a car, an appliance, or a new house. When the salesman throws in free maintenance or an extended warranty, it really sweetens the deal. Not only are you saving money, but there’s a peace of mind knowing that the support you’ll need is free.

Extra benefits and peace of mind can be a big plus in health coverage, too.

If you have Medicare, you get to enjoy extra benefits thanks to the health care law like these:

Medicare also covers a yearly wellness visit. This is a great chance to sit down with your doctor and take the time to talk about your needs — and address small health concerns before they become big ones. You can keep track of your preventive services and get reminders for them at MyMedicare.gov.

Also, most people with Medicare have access to Medicare Advantage Plans, and many of these plans offer extra benefits that Original Medicare doesn’t cover like vision, hearing, dental coverage, prescription drugs, or extended coverage when you travel.

Just like deciding what car to buy, only you know what extra benefits and services are most important for you and your family.

During Medicare Open Enrollment, decide what benefits are most important in helping you meet your unique health care needs. Use the Medicare Plan Finder to look at all of the health and drug plan options in your area.

Medicare Open Enrollment: Be a smart shopper

It’s always a good idea to shop around for a health plan. You have to decide what type of health coverage you want, research companies and what benefits they’re offering, and carefully evaluate your options before making a final choice. With the internet, there’s a wealth of information online to help you shop around. Cost is an important factor in any purchase, especially when it comes to health care.

We know you want to get the best value possible from your health care coverage. But you still need to make smart choices to get good value that meets your own health care needs. There may be dozens of Medicare plans in your area, all with different costs and levels of coverage. How much are each plan’s premiums and deductibles? How much will you pay for the benefits and services you’re likely to use? Is there a limit on what you’ll have to pay out-of-pocket for the year? If you’re currently in a plan, how does that plan stack up to the other plans that are available?

Prescription drug coverage is another part of the cost puzzle. How much will your prescriptions cost under each plan? Does the plan cover the drugs you take? Remember, thanks to the Affordable Care Act, everyone who reaches the Part D coverage gap (or “donut hole”) will benefit from a discount of 55% on covered brand-name drugs.

Only you can determine what mix of benefits and costs will work best with your needs and budget. Shopping around can make a huge difference, and we want to help. The Medicare Plan Finder makes it easy to compare plans so you can pick a plan that meets your needs. After you’ve narrowed your options, you can call the plans you’re interested in to get more details about their benefits and services, or check out their websites.

Whether groceries, health insurance, or anything else, you want value for your dollar. Make sure you have the most up-to-date information that’s available.

Medicare Open Enrollment: ready to pick a plan?

It’s that time of year—watch football, rake the leaves, and pick a Medicare health or drug plan. Today is the start of Medicare Open Enrollment!

Picking a plan is an important and personal decision. Now’s the time to think about what matters to you, and pick the Medicare plan that meets your needs. Here are some things to think about:

Does the plan cover the services you need?

Future health care needs can be hard to predict, but changes happen. Make sure you understand what services and benefits you’re likely to use in the coming year and find coverage that meets your needs. If you have other types of health or prescription drug coverage, make sure you understand how that coverage works with Medicare. And, if you travel a lot, does your plan cover you when you’re away from home?

No matter what plan you pick, you’ll have better choices and more benefits thanks to the health care law like these:

What’s the cost?

The lowest-cost health plan option might not be the best choice for you—consider things like the cost of premiums and deductibles, how much you pay for hospital stays and doctor visits, and whether it’s important for you to have expenses balanced throughout the year.

How about convenience?

Your time is valuable. Where are the doctors’ offices? What are their hours? Which pharmacies can you use? Can you get prescriptions by mail? Do the doctors use electronic health records or prescribe electronically?

Quality is important!

Not all health care is created equal, and the doctors, hospitals and facilities you choose can impact your health. Open Enrollment is also a good time to ask yourself whether you’re truly satisfied with your medical care. Look for plans with a 5‑star performance rating—the right expertise and care can make a difference.

Remember that even if you’re happy with your current plan, these answers might change from year to year—so it’s important to take the time to compare. The Medicare Plan Finder makes it easy to compare plans based on all of these factors, so you can pick a plan that meets your needs.

Why get the flu when you don’t have to?

As the weather gets colder, flu season is right around the corner. Protect yourself and your loved ones this season by getting your free flu shot.

Get your flu shot early and stay healthy! Flu viruses change from year to year, so it’s important to get a flu shot each flu season. It’s free for people with Medicare, once per flu season when it’s given by doctors or other health care providers (like senior centers and pharmacies) that take Medicare.

Schedule your flu shot today!