Saving Dollars Makes Sense, with Medicare

With rising prices on essentials like groceries, you’re not alone if you’re keeping a close eye on your wallet. Many Americans are facing financial challenges today, and health care costs are no exception. Luckily, there are many ways you can save money on your health care costs if you have Medicare.

If you have limited income and resources, you may qualify for Medicaid – a joint federal and state program that helps with Medical costs. Even if you don’t qualify for Medicaid, there are other programs that may help you pay for your Medicare premiums and other costs.

The 4 Medicare Savings Programs are:

  1. Qualified Medicare Beneficiary (QMB) Program
  2. Specified Low-Income Medicare Beneficiary (SLMB) Program
  3. Qualifying Individual (QI) Program
  4. Qualified Disabled and Working Individuals (QDWI) Program

If you qualify for Medicaid or a Medicare Savings Program, you’ll also get Extra Help paying for your prescription drugs automatically. If you don’t automatically qualify Extra Help, you can apply online at

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 on These amounts change yearly, and there may be another savings program you are eligible for depending on your specific situation. To find out if you are eligible for savings through one of these programs, call your State Medicaid Program.

This Valentine’s Day, give yourself the gift of a healthy heart

Although popular love songs might tell you otherwise, a broken heart can’t kill you – but heart disease can. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, taking 600,000 lives each year.

You might not be able to avoid Cupid’s arrow, but you can take steps to lower your risks and prevent heart disease. Start by scheduling an appointment with your doctor to discuss whether you’re at risk for heart disease.

Medicare will cover a cardiovascular screening at no cost to you every 5 years. The screening includes tests to help detect heart disease early and measures cholesterol, blood fat (lipids), and triglyceride levels.

If you and your doctor discover that you’re at risk for a heart attack or stroke, there are steps you can take to help prevent these conditions. You might be able to make lifestyle changes (like changing your diet and increasing your activity level or exercising more often) to lower your cholesterol and stay healthy.

February is American Heart month, so start it off right by visiting the Million Hearts® Healthy Eating & Lifestyle Resource Center. Million Hearts is a national initiative to prevent 1 million heart attacks and strokes by 2017. The resource center was developed in partnership with EatingWell magazine. It features lower sodium, heart-healthy recipes and family-friendly meal plans to help manage sodium intake, a major contributor to high blood pressure and heart disease.

Check out our video for more information about the Million Hearts initiative.


Choosing a dialysis facility just got easier

Are you the kind of shopper who reads reviews or looks at ratings before you make a purchase? Wouldn’t it be helpful to have the same kind of ratings when choosing a dialysis facility?

It can be overwhelming when you’re faced with having to choose a health care provider. Providers and facilities differ in the safety and quality of care they give, and having quality ratings available to compare providers can help you make more informed health care decisions. That’s why we’ve made it easier to use the information on our Dialysis Facility Compare (DFC) site by adding star ratings.

Compare websites are the official source for information about the quality of health care providers, and star ratings are just one of many ways we’re working to make quality information easier to understand and compare. These ratings are based on an established and respected process for developing standards. The DFC rating gives a 1 to 5-star rating based on information about the quality of care and services that a dialysis facility provides. Right now, we do this based on 9 quality measures.

The DFC ratings are just one example of how we’re commited to helping you make informed health care decisions. Our Nursing Home Compare site already uses star ratings to help consumers compare nursing homes and choose one based on quality. Physician Compare has just started to include star ratings in certain situations for physician group practices. We’re planning on adding star ratings to Hospital Compare and Home Health Compare later this year.

Protect yourself – get screened for cervical cancer

Did you know all women are at risk for cervical cancer, and it occurs most often in women over 30? Fortunately, Medicare covers 2 types of screening test – the Pap smear and human papilloma virus (HPV) test – that can help find cancer and other health problems early and improve recovery and survival rates.

January is Cervical Health Awareness Month. Watch our Cervical Health Awareness Month video and visit our cervical & vaginal cancer screenings page to learn what these tests do and how often they’re covered.

Also, visit the National Cervical Cancer Coalition website to find ways you can raise awareness about cervical cancer and how you can make a difference.

Are you at high risk for glaucoma?

Do you have diabetes or a family history of glaucoma? Are you African American and 50 or older, or are you Hispanic American and 65 or older? If so, your risk of getting glaucoma may be higher, but don’t worry – Medicare covers a glaucoma test once every 12 months for people at high risk for glaucoma.

January is National Glaucoma Awareness Month. Find out more about Medicare’s glaucoma screening coverage. Also, visit the Prevent Blindness website to see how you can join the ongoing fight against vision loss.

Get your Medicare ready for 2015

Do you make resolutions for the new year? Here are some easy ones you can keep that will help get you ready for 2015:

1. Check to see that you have the right insurance card to use when you go to the doctor in 2015. Did you change your health or drug plan during Medicare Open Enrollment? If you did and you haven’t received 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. Budget for next year’s Medicare Part B deductible.

Remember, if you have Medicare Part B and you’re 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 2014. 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 2015.

3.  Schedule appointments to get any preventive tests or screenings.

Medicare covers all sorts of preventive services to keep you healthy and screenings to check for health problems, and many 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 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. Make sure 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 for the latest Medicare news and information, and have a happy and healthy new year!

Support World AIDS Day – wear your red ribbon

Did you know that every year 50,000 people are diagnosed with HIV? Of the 1.1 million people living with HIV in the United States, 1 in every 6 doesn’t even know they have it. December 1st 2014 is World AIDS day and the theme is “Focus, Partner, Achieve: An AIDS-free Generation.”

HIV is the virus that can lead to Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome, or AIDS. Early testing and diagnosis play key roles in reducing the spread of the disease, extending life expectancy, and cutting costs of care. At least 1 in 3 people in the U.S. who test positive for HIV is tested too late to get the full advantage of treatment. Testing is also an important first step in getting HIV-infected people the medical care and support they need to improve their health and help them maintain safer behaviors.

What can you do to help achieve an AIDS-free generation? Medicare covers HIV screening for people with Medicare of any age who ask for the test, pregnant women, and people at increased risk for the infection (like gay and bisexual men, injection drug users, or people with multiple sexual partners).

Visit to learn more about World AIDS Day and to learn more about their Act Against AIDS campaign.

To find an HIV test site, visit or text your zip code to “KNOWIT” (566948).