Make today the day you quit smoking

Smoking tobacco can cause many diseases including heart disease, respiratory diseases, and lung cancer —the leading cause of cancer death in the U.S. Over 56 million people in the U.S. still smoke tobacco, but quitting can reduce your risk of getting these diseases. You can quit smoking today, and Medicare is here to help.

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. Watch our video to learn more about Medicare’s benefits to help you quit.

Get smart: Know when to use antibiotics

It’s that time of year again—flu season! But if you get sick, think twice before going to your doctor for antibiotics. If you get a cold or flu, antibiotics won’t help. That’s because these are viral infections, and antibiotics only cure bacterial infections. Taking antibiotics when you don’t need them can be harmful. Every time you take antibiotics, they kill sensitive bacteria, but resistant germs may survive to grow and multiply. These resistant germs can lead to severe infections, hospitalizations, and death—especially among people over 65.

The CDC has marked this week as Get Smart About Antibiotics Week. Here are 3 things you can do to make sure you’re using antibiotics the right way:

  1. Take antibiotics only to treat true bacterial infections. It should be for only as long as your doctor prescribed to treat the infection, to reduce your risk of getting the infection again, or to reduce the risk to those around you.
  2. Always talk to your doctor before taking an antibiotic to be sure it will treat the infection you have.
  3. Never take antibiotics for a viral infection, like a cold, cough, or flu. Antibiotics won’t cure your virus, they won’t keep those around you from getting sick, and they won’t help you feel better. In fact, taking antibiotics when you have a virus may do you more harm than good, because you increase your risk of getting an antibiotic-resistant infection later.

Antibiotics won’t help you recover from the flu, but you can keep yourself from catching the major flu viruses in the first place by getting your flu shot! It’s free for people with Medicare, once per flu season when given by doctors or other health care providers (like senior centers and pharmacies) that take Medicare.

Medicare can help you fight lung cancer

More men and women in the United States die from lung cancer than any other type of cancer. Every year, about 200,000 people are diagnosed. The best way to lower your chances of developing lung cancer is to quit smoking and using tobacco products.

If you use tobacco, Medicare Part B covers up to 8 face-to-face smoking cessation counseling visits in a 12-month period and a lung cancer screening once per year. You pay nothing for these services if your doctor accepts assignment. Watch our video to learn more about Medicare’s benefits to help you quit.

Want to learn more about how smoking affects your health or to find tips and resources to help you quit? Visit, or call the National Network of Tobacco Cessation Quitline at 1-800-QUITNOW (1-800-784-8669).

November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month. Breathe easier knowing Medicare is here to help keep you healthy.

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

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

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.