This spring, put prevention into practice

The start of spring is a reminder of new beginnings – the longer hours of daylight, sprouting tulips and warmer weather are all indicators of a new season, and a new reason to be proactive with your health. One simple way to manage your health is to practice preventive care. Because preventive services can find health problems early, when treatment works best, it’s a crucial step in maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

Your preventive services with Medicare

If you have Medicare, then you have access to a variety of preventive tests and screenings, most at no cost to you. If you’re new to Medicare, your “Welcome to Medicare” preventive visit is now covered for free during your first 12 months of Part B coverage. This visit includes a review of your medical and social history related to your health and education and counseling about preventive services, including certain screenings, shots, and referrals for other care, if needed.

If you’ve had Part B for longer than 12 months, you can get a yearly wellness visit to develop or update a personalized prevention plan based on your current health and risk factors. In addition to these important wellness visits, Medicare covers screening tests for diabetes, colon cancer, breast cancer, osteoporosis and heart disease, just to name a few.

So as you tend to your garden this spring, make a commitment to tend to yourself too. Practice preventive care so you can you stay healthy, live longer, and delay or prevent many diseases.

 

Join the fight against Medicare fraud

Medicare fraud affects everyone. You can team up with Medicare to help.

Our Senior Medicare Patrol volunteers are teaching people like you how to spot, report, and stop fraud, and protect themselves from identity theft.

Here are some things you can do:

  • Guard your Medicare and Social Security Numbers. Treat them like you would treat your credit cards.
  • Hang up the phone if someone calls and asks for your Medicare number, Social Security Number, or bank or credit card information. We will NEVER call and ask for this information, and we will NEVER call you or come to your home uninvited to sell Medicare products.
  • Be suspicious of anyone who offers you free medical equipment or services and then requests your Medicare number. It’s illegal, and it’s not worth it!
  • Do not let anyone borrow or pay you to use your Medicare ID card or your identity.
  • Check your Medicare claims for errors. Look at your Medicare Summary Notice (MSN) or statements from your Medicare plan. You can also check MyMedicare.gov, or call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227) as soon as your claims have been processed. The sooner you see and report errors, the sooner we can stop fraud. TTY users should call 1-877-486-2048.
  • Call 1-800-MEDICARE to report any suspected fraud.

Learn more about spotting and reporting fraud, and get tips on protecting yourself from identity theft.

Find out about Senior Medicare Patrol activities in your area.

Get help with your health care costs

You may qualify for help with your premiums, deductibles, copayments, or prescription costs with Extra Help or with a Medicare Savings Program.

Medicare has 4 savings programs that may help with your healthcare costs:

1.      Qualified Medicare Beneficiary (QMB) Program

2.      Specified Low-Income Medicare Beneficiary (SLMB)

3.      Qualified Individual (QI) Program

4.      Qualified Disabled and Working Individuals (QDWI)

If you have limited income and resources, you may also qualify for Extra Help to help pay your Medicare prescription drug costs, like premiums, deductibles, and copayments.

Find out if you qualify for a Medicare Savings Program in 2014. You can apply online or visit your local State Health Insurance Program.

This Valentine’s Day Give Your Heart Some Love

Although popular love songs might tell you otherwise, a broken heart can’t kill you – but heart disease can.  Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. 

You might not be able to avoid Cupid’s arrow, but you can take steps to lower your risks and prevent heart disease.  Start by scheduling an appointment with your doctor to discuss whether you’re at risk for heart disease. 

Medicare will cover a cardiovascular screening at no cost to you every 5 years.  The screening includes tests to help detect heart disease early and measures cholesterol, blood fat (lipids), and triglyceride levels. 

If you and your doctor discover that you’re at risk for a heart attack or stroke, there are steps you can take to help prevent these conditions.  You might be able to make lifestyle changes (like changing your diet and increasing your activity level or exercising more often) to lower your cholesterol and stay healthy.

Luckily, you don’t have to face these challenges alone. The national Million Hearts campaign has pledged to help prevent 1 million heart attacks and strokes by 2017. You can join them, and get information and resources you need to learn how to take care of your heart and live a healthy life.

February is American Heart Month, and a healthy heart is the best Valentine’s Day gift you could ever give yourself, or the people who love you.

PROTECT YOURSELF – GET SCREENED FOR CERVICAL CANCER

Cervical cancer and human papilloma virus (HPV) affect thousands of women each year. Regular screening tests like pap tests and pelvic exams can help find cancer and other health problems early and improve recovery and survival rates. Talk to your doctor about scheduling your next test!

Find out more about Medicare’s pap test and pelvic exam coverage.

For more information about HPV, check out the American Cancer Society’s HPV Frequently Asked Questions.

To learn more about Cervical Cancer, go to the American Cancer Society’s Web site for Cervical Cancer Information.

AT RISK FOR GLAUCOMA? FIND OUT BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE

Do you have diabetes, a family history of glaucoma, or are you African American and age 50 or older? If so, your risk of getting glaucoma may be higher. With the start of a new year, it’s the perfect time to schedule a regular eye exam to check for glaucoma. You can prevent vision loss by finding and treating problems early. Learn more about how Medicare covers glaucoma screenings.

Is your Medicare ready for 2014?

The new year is fast approaching. Here are a few things to ask yourself to make sure you’re ready for 2014.

1. Do you have the right insurance card to use when you go to the doctor in 2014?
If you changed your health or drug plan during Medicare Open Enrollment and don’t get 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. Did you budget for next year’s Medicare Part B deductible?

Don’t forget, if you have Medicare Part B and are 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 2013. Make sure to 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 2014.

3. Have you made appointments to get any preventive tests or screenings?

Medicare covers many preventive services to keep you healthy and screenings to check for health problems. Many of these services 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. Does 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 healthy 2014!