Medicare is ready to help you quit smoking

Every year, more people die from lung cancer than any other type of cancer and smoking is the leading cause. Don’t become a statistic – Medicare is ready to help you quit smoking. Talk to your doctor today and cross one thing off your list.

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.

Saving money on health costs: Medicare’s Extra Help

Have you ever found yourself skipping a day of your medication or cutting your pills in half to make your supply last a little longer? Or, have you put off filling a prescription because you’re having trouble making ends meet? If so, we can help. Medicare has a special program called “Extra Help.” If you have limited income and resources, you can sign up to get help paying things like your monthly premium, annual deductible, and prescription copayments in your Medicare drug plan. In 2015, drug costs for most people who qualify will be no more than $2.65 for each generic drug and $6.60 for each brand-name drug.

Even if you’re not sure you’d qualify, it’s worth filling out an application to see. Many people with Medicare may be eligible for the Extra Help program but don’t even know it. Are you or a family member one of them?

It’s easy and free to apply for Extra Help. Here’s how:

Don’t wait – apply today to see if you qualify for some extra help with your health costs.

Care for the Caregiver?

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 4 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.

Focusing on comfort & support: hospice care

Choosing to stop curative treatment is a scary moment for anyone. You worry about your family, the quality of the care you’ll receive, and keeping your dignity.

For over 30 years Medicare has covered hospice care, so that those who are terminally ill can spend the last moments of their lives with dignity and comfort, among their loved ones. The focus is on comfort and support, not on 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.

For more information about hospice, you can visit Medicare.gov. To find a hospice program, talk to your doctor or call your state hospice organization.

When you need us, we’ll be here.

Cutting-edge colorectal cancer screening now covered

Did you know colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States among cancers that affect both men and women? More than 90% of cases occur in people who are 50 years old or older. More men than women get colon cancer, and 1 or 2 out of every 100 men who are 60 today will develop colon cancer by age 70.

Starting today, people with Medicare who don’t show symptoms of colorectal cancer will have access to the Cologuard™ multi-target stool DNA test, a first-of-its-kind test. It’s being covered more quickly than usual by Medicare through a pilot program run jointly by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Medicare. Medicare and the FDA are working together to get you state-of-the-art treatments faster.

In most cases, colorectal cancer develops from precancerous polyps (abnormal growths) in the colon or rectum. Cologuard™ studies a patient’s stool sample to see if there’s DNA code that suggests either the presence of precancerous polyps or colorectal cancer. This way, your doctors can find these polyps and you can get them removed before they turn into cancer.

Medicare Part B covers the Cologuard™ test once every 3 years for people with Medicare who meet all of these conditions:

  • Between 50 and 85 years old
  • Show no signs or symptoms of colorectal disease including, but not limited to, lower gastrointestinal pain, blood in stool, positive guaiac fecal occult blood test or fecal immunochemical test, and
  • At average risk of developing colorectal cancer—have no personal history of adenomatous polyps, colorectal cancer, or inflammatory bowel disease, including Crohn’s Disease and ulcerative colitis; and have no family history of colorectal cancers or adenomatous polyps, familial adenomatous polyposis, or hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer

Cologuard™ is one of several tools that Medicare covers to detect colorectal cancer. Talk with your doctor about which colorectal cancer screenings you should try.

Go Green with “Medicare & You”

Love your red, white, and blue “Medicare & You” handbook but love the convenience of getting information on your computer, tablet, or phone even more?

You can get all of the same information in your printed handbook online at Medicare.gov. Learn what’s new, get Medicare costs, and find out what Medicare covers. Even better, the handbook information on the web is updated regularly, so you can instantly find the most up-to-date Medicare information.

Visit Medicare.gov to do a lot of things on your own like replace your Medicare card, change your address, sign up or make changes to your Medicare coverage, and find out important dates. All this in time for October 15 – the start of Medicare Open Enrollment.

Take advantage of some other great features to get just what you need:

  • Search quickly for what you want and print only the pages you need, while getting the latest, up-to-date official Medicare information, including the most recent list of available plans
  • Get “Medicare & You” in different formats like large print, eBook or audio
  • Subscribe to get an email when information is updated
  • Access personalized information at MyMedicare.gov

And, if you’d like to trade in your printed copy for a paperless version, we’ve got you covered. You can choose to get your next “Medicare & You” handbook electronically by using the “go paperless” option. In a few simple steps, you’ll be all set. Sign up today, and we’ll send you an email including a link to the new online Medicare & You. It’s instant, current, and convenient.

Medicare protects you on World Hepatitis Day and every day

Did you know that hepatitis, an inflammation of the liver caused by a virus, affects millions of people worldwide, resulting in acute and chronic liver disease and killing close to 1.4 million people every year?

Hepatitis is contagious. For example, the Hepatitis B virus spreads through contact with the blood or other body fluids of an infected person. People can also get infected by coming in contact with a contami­nated object, where the virus can live for up to 7 days. Hepatitis B can range from being a mild illness, lasting a few weeks (acute), to a serious long-term illness (chronic) that can lead to liver disease or liver cancer.

Medicare can help keep you protected from some of the common strains of hepatitis: Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B.

Generally, Medicare Part D (prescription drug coverage) covers Hepatitis A shots when medically necessary.

Medicare Part B (Medical Insurance) covers Hepatitis B shots, which usually are given as a series of 3 shots over a 6-month period (you need all 3 shots for complete protection).

There’s a third type of Hepatitis—Hepatitis C. Medicare covers a one-time Hepatitis C screening test if your primary care doctor or practitioner orders it and you meet one of these conditions:

  • You’re at high risk because you have a current or past history of illicit injection drug use
  • You had a blood transfusion before 1992, or
  • You were born between 1945 and 1965

July 28 is World Hepatitis Day. Find out how you can prevent and treat hepatitis by visiting the World Health Organization’s World Hepatitis Day web page.