Know the signs for ovarian cancer

Women have unique health concerns, including certain types of cancers and high rates of chronic disease. Medicare covers many services to address these concerns, like a yearly wellness visit, bone mass measurement, cervical cancer screenings, mammograms, and cardiovascular screenings. Medicare also covers other preventive services, so talk to your doctor about risk factors and to schedule your next screening.

Did you know ovarian cancer accounts for about 3% of cancers among women, but it causes more deaths than any other cancer of the female reproductive system? Early diagnosis is the key to survival, and the key to early diagnosis is recognizing the symptoms of ovarian cancer:

  • Bloating
  • Pelvic or abdominal pain
  • Trouble eating or feeling full quickly
  • Urgency or frequency of urination

Currently there’s no effective screening test for ovarian cancer, and it can be very hard to identify ovarian cancer early. The signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer aren’t always clear and may be hard to recognize. It’s important to pay attention to your body and know what’s normal for you. If you notice any changes in your body that last for 2 weeks or longer and may be a sign or symptom of ovarian cancer, talk to your doctor and ask about possible causes. Symptoms may be caused by something other than cancer, but the only way to know is to see your doctor, nurse, or other health care professional.

Make sure to ask your doctor about your level of risk for ovarian cancer at your “Welcome to Medicare” visit or your next Yearly “Wellness” visit.

September is National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, a perfect time for you to learn more about this disease and know the symptoms. Visit the Centers for Disease Control for more information on ovarian cancer.

Turning 65 soon? Transitioning to dual Medicare and Medicaid coverage and getting help with costs

If you’re enrolled in Medicaid and will soon have Medicare eligibility, it’s not too soon to start planning ahead. Once Medicare eligibility begins, you’ll have a 7 month Initial Enrollment Period to sign up. For most people, this is 3 months before, the month of, and 3 months after their 65th birthday.

Once you have Medicare and Medicaid coverage, Medicare will cover your Part D prescription drugs and you’ll automatically qualify to get Extra Help paying for your drug costs. If you have limited income and resources, you may also qualify for help paying for your Medicare Part B premium and other Medicare costs, like deductibles and coinsurance. Medicare and your state Medicaid program work together to provide you with this help, called the Medicare Savings Programs.

The 4 Medicare Savings Programs (MSPs)

If you have income from working, you may qualify for these 4 MSPs, even if your income is higher than the income limits listed below. Each program has a different income and resource eligibility limit. Even if you don’t qualify for Medicaid, you may qualify for one of these programs to help you cover your Medicare costs.

How do I apply for Medicare Savings Programs?

If you answer yes to these 3 questions, call your State Medicaid Program to see if you qualify for a Medicare Savings Program in your state:

  1. Do you have, or are you eligible for, Part A?
  2. Is your monthly income for 2015 at, or below, $1,333 (single) or $1,790 (married or living together)?
  3. Do you have limited resources, less than $7,160 (single) or $10,750 (married or living together

It’s important to call or fill out an application if you think you could qualify for savings—even if your income or resources are higher than the amounts listed here.

What items are included in the Medicare Savings Program resource limits?

Countable resources include:

  • Money in a checking or savings account
  • Stocks
  • Bonds

Countable resources don’t include:

  • Your home
  • One car
  • Burial plot
  • Up to $1,500 for burial expenses if you have put that money aside
  • Furniture
  • Other household and personal items

How can I keep my costs down?

Protect yourself from pneumonia and other infections

Did you know that 900,000 Americans get pneumonia every year? Pneumonia is a lung infection caused by pneumococcal disease, which can also cause blood infections and meningitis. The bacteria that causes pneumococcal disease is spread by direct person-to-person contact.

Medicare can help protect you from pneumococcal infections. The best way to prevent these infections is by getting the pneumococcal shot. Medicare Part B covers the shot and a second one 11 months after you got the first shot for anyone with Part B.

You may be at a higher risk for these infections if you:

  • Are 65 or older
  • Have a chronic illness (like asthma, diabetes, or lung, heart, liver, or kidney disease)
  • Have a condition that weakens your immune system (like HIV, AIDS, or cancer)
  • Live in a nursing home or other long-term care facility
  • Have cochlear implants or cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) leaks
  • Smoke tobacco

You can learn more about Medicare-covered vaccines by watching our video. Take an easy step towards prevention, and get your pneumococcal shot today.

Now’s the perfect time to get your free flu shot

It’s that time of year again. Protect yourself and the ones you love this flu season with 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 in the fall or winter, when given by doctors or other health care providers (like senior centers and pharmacies) that take Medicare.

Schedule your flu shot today!

Did you get your mammogram this year?

Mammograms are breast cancer screening tests that can detect a lump before you or your doctor can feel it. This helps to detect breast cancer early, when it’s most treatable. All women over 40 should have a mammogram every 12 months – and Medicare covers it at no cost if your doctor accepts assignment. Talk to your doctor about risk factors and to schedule your next screening.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, so let’s spread the word on the fight against breast cancer.

Need therapy services? Be sure you know Medicare’s limits

Are you getting physical therapy after a hip replacement? Speech-language pathology services after a stroke? Anytime you get outpatient physical therapy, occupational therapy, or speech-language pathology services, be sure you know the limits for how much Medicare will pay.

Medicare helps pay for medically-necessary outpatient physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech-language pathology services. There are limits, called “therapy caps,” on these services when you get them from most outpatient providers.

The therapy cap limits for 2014 are:

  • $1,920 for physical therapy (PT) and speech-language pathology (SLP) services combined
  • $1,920 for occupational therapy (OT) services

You may qualify to get an exception so that Medicare will continue to pay its share for your services after you reach the therapy cap limits.

October is National Physical Therapy Month – take the time to learn more about Medicare’s limits on therapy services.

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.