Did you know that more than 1 million Americans are living with HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) infection, yet approximately 1 in 5 of them don’t know it?
Have you been tested? Medicare covers HIV screening once every 12 months, or up to 3 times during a pregnancy, for people with Medicare of any age who ask for the test, pregnant women, and people at increased risk for the infection (such as gay and bisexual men, injection drug users, or people with multiple sexual partners). You pay nothing for the tests, but you generally have to pay 20% of the Medicare-approved amount for the doctor visit.
Early testing and diagnosis is key to prevention. 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. Early testing cuts the spread of disease, extends life expectancy, and cuts costs of care. Testing is an important first step in bringing people with HIV infection the medical care and support they need to improve their health and help them maintain safer behaviors.
June 27 is National HIV Testing Day. Make sure your loved ones have been tested—the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommend that everyone between the ages of 13 and 64 be tested for HIV at least once in their lifetime. You can learn more about HIV testing and what you can do to increase testing awareness by visiting the Centers for Disease Control.
Do you or a loved one have cataracts? A cataract is a clouding of the eye’s lens that affects vision. According to the National Eye Institute, by age 80, more than half of all Americans will either have a cataract or have had cataract surgery.
Medicare can help. Medicare Part B covers cataract surgery, and after surgery Medicare helps pay for cataract glasses, contact lenses, or intraocular lenses you get from an ophthalmologist.
Cataracts often come with age—they affect the vision of about half of all people between 65 and 74. Your risk for cataracts also may increase through long term exposure to sunlight, if you have diabetes, or if you smoke. New eyeglasses, brighter lighting, anti-glare sunglasses, or magnifying lenses may help your symptoms. If not, you may need surgery to remove the cloudy lens and replace it with an artificial lens.
June is Cataract Awareness Month. Visit the National Eye Institute at the National Institutes of Health to learn more about cataracts.
Have you ever put off doing a task or getting a test and later wished you’d just gotten it over with? Now’s the time to talk with your doctor about whether you should get screened for prostate cancer. It’s the most common cancer in men, second only to lung cancer in the number of cancer deaths. The potential benefit of prostate cancer screening is early detection of cancer, which may make treatment more effective.
If you’re a man 50 or over, Medicare covers a digital rectal exam and Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) test once every 12 months. Generally, you pay 20% of the Medicare-approved amount for the digital rectal exam after the yearly Part B deductible. You pay nothing for the PSA test.
Not sure if you should get screened? You’re at a higher risk for getting prostate cancer if you’re a man 50 or older, are African-American, or have a father, brother, or son who has had prostate cancer.
June is Men’s Health Month, a perfect time for you (and the men in your life) to take the steps to live a safer, healthier life. Visit the Centers for Disease Control for more information on men’s health and prostate cancer.
Are you or a loved one hooked on tobacco? Join the millions who’ve found a good reason to give it up—tobacco use is the second leading cause of death worldwide, responsible for 1 in every 10 adult deaths.
If you’re ready to quit, we can help. Part B covers free counseling sessions as a preventive service to help you quit smoking—you pay nothing if your doctor accepts Medicare’s payment.
If you’ve already been diagnosed with an illness caused or made worse by tobacco use or you take a medicine affected by tobacco, you can continue to get up to 8 face-to-face counseling visits every 12 months. You pay your Part B deductible, and 20% of the Medicare-approved amount. If you get counseling in a hospital outpatient setting, you also pay the hospital a copayment.
Make May 31—World “No Tobacco” Day—your starting point to kick the habit. Visit the Centers for Disease Control and the National Cancer Institute to learn more about tobacco use and how you can overcome it.
Also, watch our video about the World Health Organization’s World No Tobacco Day campaign and how Medicare supports it.
Are you at risk for getting Hepatitis B? Hepatitis B is a serious disease caused by a virus that attacks the liver. Approximately 2,000–4,000 people die every year from Hepatitis B-related liver disease.
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.
The best way to prevent Hepatitis B is by getting the Hepatitis B vaccine, which is usually given as 3 shots over a 6-month period. You need to get all 3 shots for complete protection.
Medicare covers a series of shots for free if you’re at medium or high risk for Hepatitis B. Your risk increases if you have hemophilia (a rare bleeding disorder in which the blood doesn’t clot normally), End-Stage Renal Disease, or certain other conditions. You may also be at a higher risk if you live with someone who has Hepatitis B or if you’re a healthcare worker and have frequent contact with blood or body fluids. Ask your doctor if these shots are right for you.
May is Hepatitis Awareness month. To find out more about preventing and treating Hepatitis B, visit the Centers for Disease Control.
Also, watch our short YouTube video about Medicare’s efforts to prevent and treat hepatitis.
Crosspost from The White House Blog
Fighting Medicare fraud has long been a top priority for President Obama. Today, we are releasing a new infographic that describes how the Affordable Care Act – the new health care law – is helping the Obama Administration crack down on Medicare fraud and make Medicare stronger. The new infographic shows how the law increases penalties for criminals who commit fraud and provides new enforcement tools to stop fraud and save taxpayers money.
We are committed to using these new tools to fight Medicare and other health care fraud, and we are getting results: The Administration’s anti-fraud efforts recovered $4.1 billion in taxpayer dollars last year, the second year recoveries hit this record-breaking level. Total recoveries over the last three years were $10.7 billion. Prosecutions are way up, too: the number of individuals charged with fraud increased from 797 in fiscal year 2008 to 1,430 in fiscal year 2011 – a more than 75 percent increase.
Just last week, the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Justice announced “a nationwide takedown by Medicare Fraud Strike Force operations in seven cities has resulted in charges against 107 individuals, including doctors, nurses and other licensed medical professionals, for their alleged participation in Medicare fraud schemes involving approximately $452 million in false billing.” And on Monday, the Departments announced that, as a part of their Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team initiative, they had resolved an investigation into a pharmaceutical company’s unlawful promotion of a prescription drug. The Justice Department reported that, “the resolution – the second largest payment by a drug company – includes a criminal fine and forfeiture totaling $700 million and civil settlements with the federal government and the states totaling $800 million.”
The infographic also shows how the Affordable Care Act is making Medicare stronger and providing new benefits. For example:
- 32.5 million people with Medicare received at least one free preventive service thanks to the health care law.
- People with Medicare who hit the prescription drug donut hole have already saved $3.4 billion on their prescription drugs.
- By 2021, the average person with Medicare will save nearly $4,200 thanks to the new health care law.
Click here to download a PDF of the graphic
You can learn more about these efforts and our work to implement the Affordable Care Act by visiting whitehouse.gov/healthreform.
Nancy-Ann DeParle is Assistant to the President and Deputy Chief of Staff
Do you know someone older who accidentally bumped their arm and ended up needing a sling? This type of injury could have been caused by osteoporosis. Ten million Americans have osteoporosis, and 34 million more have low bone mass. Osteoporosis means your bones have lost density or mass. As your bones become less dense, they become weaker.
People can’t feel their bones getting weaker. So, you may not know that you have osteoporosis until you break a bone. A person with osteoporosis can fracture a bone from a minor fall, or in serious cases, from a simple action such as a sneeze.
While people of all ages and backgrounds can develop osteoporosis, you’re at higher risk if you’re:
- Older than 50
- Small in body size
- Eat a diet low in calcium
- Not physically active
- A post-menopausal woman
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.
Also, take steps to keep your bones healthy. Get the calcium and vitamin D you need every day, and do regular weight-bearing and muscle-strengthening exercises.
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. Also, watch our short YouTube video about Medicare’s efforts to curb osteoporosis.
Most of us have a friend or relative who has had high blood pressure at some point in their life—it affects the health of approximately 68 million Americans. High blood pressure increases the risk for heart disease and stroke, 2 of the 3 leading causes of death.
You may even have high blood pressure, so it’s important to get your blood pressure checked routinely. Medicare can help—we cover blood pressure screening as part of your “Welcome to Medicare” visit and your Yearly Wellness Visit—at no cost to you.
There are lots of ways you can check your blood pressure regularly, to keep on top of any changes between wellness visits. Check your local newspaper’s events calendar for local senior centers or libraries offering free blood pressure screenings. Visit health fairs that come to your community, where nurses may be on duty to check your blood pressure. Some supermarkets and drug stores offer a free automated machine next to their pharmacies, so why not use it the next time you pick up your prescriptions? You’ll feel good knowing you’re paying attention to an important part of your health.
May is National High Blood Pressure Education Month—learn more about how you can lower your blood pressure. Also, watch our short YouTube video about Medicare’s efforts to curb hypertension.
By Marilyn Tavenner, Acting Administrator
The day is finally here – weeks after a fall that resulted in a broken hip, you’re ready to go home. You know you’re going to continue to need treatment and services at home, but where do you find a resource to help you through this next step on the road to recovery?
Now there’s an objective and meaningful way to compare other patients’ actual experiences with home health agencies and services—the Home Health Care Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HHCAHPS) Survey – and we’ve just released the first set of survey results on our Home Health Compare page.
People with Medicare that are getting home health services fill out this short survey that asks about the care they got from the home health agency in the last 2 months, how they’d rate the care, and how strongly they’d recommend that agency.
The initial survey results cover the period from October 2010 to September 2011. Most people who got home health care from Medicare-certified home health agencies during that time said they got the care they needed. In fact:
- 84% of patients gave their home health agency a rating of 9 or 10 on a scale from 0 (lowest) to 10 (highest).
- 80% of patients said “yes, they would definitely recommend the home health agency to friends.”
- 87% of patients said their home health team provided care in a professional way.
- 86% said their home health team communicated well with them.
- 83% said their home health team discussed medicines, pain, and home safety.
By making the results public, we help keep home health agencies openly accountable and continuously working to improve their quality of care.
Let Medicare make it easier for you on your road to recovery. We can help you make an informed decision when choosing a home health agency that best meets your needs—visit our Home Health Compare for the latest patient survey results.