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.

Are you a smoker? Today’s a great day to quit.

Have you tried to quit smoking, but failed in the past? Do you have a loved one who needs a little extra support to quit? If so, today’s 37th annual Great American Smokeout might give you or your loved one the motivation you need to quit the habit for good.

Quitting is hard, but Medicare can help. Check out BeTobaccoFree.gov, a comprehensive website with up-to-date tobacco-related information. Also, watch our short video about Medicare’s smoking cessation counseling sessions, and talk to your doctor about strategies to help you quit. Take the first step toward a healthier life – make a plan to quit today!

Medicare covers hospice & comfort care

Do you care for someone who’s terminally ill? It can be hard taking care of everyday activities while trying to care for someone who’s sick. The comforting news is you don’t have to do it alone. Medicare can help.

Medicare covers care for people who are terminally ill, and we have resources to help you. As part of hospice coverage, your loved one can get the care and support they need. This can include doctor and nursing services, counseling, medical supplies, pain medications, and other services. And, most importantly, hospice can provide much needed comfort while at home.

Remember, you’re not alone – Medicare is here to help. There are resources to help you plan for the future, take care of yourself, and much more.

You can also contact these organizations for additional support:

Getting outpatient therapy? 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 and 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 amounts for 2012 are:

  • $1,880 for physical therapy (PT) and speech-language pathology (SLP) services combined
  • $1,880 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. Your therapist must document your need for medically-necessary services in your medical record, and your therapist’s billing office must indicate on your claim for services above the therapy cap that your outpatient therapy services are medically necessary.

Learn more about Medicare’s limits on therapy services.

Making it Easier to Quit Smoking

By Don Berwick, M.D., Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services

By now, everyone knows that smoking and tobacco use just aren’t good for you. But that knowledge can be very abstract. If it isn’t apparent that tobacco use is hurting you now, why quit?

Well, anyone who has ever battled lung cancer or lived with emphysema – or watched a loved one experience those conditions – knows that the consequences of smoking and tobacco aren’t abstract at all. And some people don’t know that tobacco is a major risk factor for heart disease, just as it is for cancer.

So, when I tell you that almost half a million people have died from tobacco use in the past year, that probably seems abstract too. (The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that cigarette smoking alone is responsible for 443,000 deaths per year.)

Think of it this way: that is six times as many people as attended the Super Bowl last year.

While it isn’t a new thing to say that tobacco is bad for your health, it is new for Medicare to pay for a smoker or tobacco user to get cessation counseling before they have symptoms of resulting disease.

Today, under a new coverage decision, anyone who smokes or uses tobacco and is covered by Medicare will be able to receive tobacco cessation counseling from a qualified physician or other Medicare-recognized practitioner who can work with them to help them quit. (All people with Medicare will continue to have access to tobacco cessation prescription medication through the Medicare Prescription Drug Program.)

For the estimated 5.5 million people with Medicare who are smokers and may be looking to quit, the new benefit lowers a potential barrier to treatment. Quitting reduces the risk of death from coronary heart disease, chronic obstructive lung disease, or lung or other cancers.

You can learn about other kinds of preventive services on healthcare.gov; the Affordable Care Act makes important strides in placing an emphasis on getting appropriate screenings and moving the overall health care system toward prevention-based model.