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!

Get smart about using antibiotics

As we enter flu season, you may seek fast relief when illness strikes, but think twice before asking your doctor for antibiotics. Did you know that if you have a cold or flu, antibiotics won’t work for you? That’s because antibiotics cure bacterial infections, not viral infections. Every time someone takes antibiotics, sensitive bacteria are killed, but resistant germs may survive to grow and multiply. These resistant germs 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 properly:

1. Take antibiotics only to treat a true bacterial infection. 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, such as a cold, cough, or the flu. Antibiotics won’t cure your virus, they won’t keep those around you from getting the illness, 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 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 in the fall or winter, when given by doctors or other health care providers (such as senior centers and pharmacies) that take Medicare.

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. 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.

Caring for someone with Medicare? Get some help.

Did you know that  over 66 million Americans care for loved ones who have chronic illnesses, disabilities, or frailties that come naturally with old age?

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, including our caregiver resource kit  and tips on how to take care of yourself.
  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.
  1. Learn how to reach out for help with AARP’s article on “Creating Your Caregiving Team” – a great reminder that caregiving is a big responsibility that no one should take on alone.
  2. Find resources near you by visiting the Administration on Aging’s Eldercare Locator.

BELIEVE in yourself… PROTECT your health… REACH OUT for help.

Celebrating 30 years of Hospice care

November 2013 marks the 30th anniversary of Medicare coverage for Hospice care. That’s right, for 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.

Hospice is a program of care and support for people who are terminally ill. The focus is on comfort and support, not on curing an illness. Hospice care is generally provided in the home, by a specially trained team of professionals and caregivers. Services may include physical care, counseling, drugs, equipment, and supplies for the terminal illness and related condition(s).

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.

Here’s to 30 more years of providing the comfort, care, and support that you and your family deserve during this difficult time.

Medicare Open Enrollment: shop around

In today’s world, we’re all a little more conscious of costs. Maybe we clip a few more coupons, eat out less, or compare ads to find the best price on something before we buy.

Cost is an important factor in any purchase, and health care is no different. We know you want to get the best value possible from your health care coverage. But you still need to make smart choices to get good value out of your health insurance.

There may be dozens of Medicare plans in your area, all with different costs and levels of coverage.How much are each plan’s premiums and deductibles? How much will you pay for the benefits and services you’re likely to use? Is there a limit on what you’ll have to pay out-of-pocket for the year?

Prescription drug coverage is another part of the cost puzzle. How much will your prescriptions cost under each plan?  Does the plan cover the drugs you take? Remember, thanks to the Affordable Care Act, everyone who reaches the Part D coverage gap (or “donut hole”) will benefit from a discount of more than 50% on covered brand-name drugs.

Only you can determine what mix of benefits and costs will work best with your needs and budget. Shopping around can make a huge difference, and we want to help.

The Medicare Plan Finder makes it easy to compare plans so you can pick a plan that meets your needs. After you’ve narrowed your options, you can call the plans you’re interested in to get more details about their benefits and services, or check out their websites.

Whether groceries, health insurance, phone plans or anything else, you want value for your dollar.  Make sure you have the most up-to-date information out there.

Protect yourself and those you love – get your free flu shot

It’s that time of year again.  With the beginning of fall comes the beginning of flu season. 

Get your flu shot early and stay healthy!  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 (such as senior centers and pharmacies) that take Medicare.

Schedule your flu shot today!