Rethink the drink

Did you know that 9% of elderly people with Medicare drink more than 30 drinks a month? The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism defines “risky drinking” as more than 14 drinks per month for men, and 7 drinks per month for women.

There are lots of changes that happen with age, and some of them, like physical pain, loss of mobility, and loneliness can lead to alcohol misuse. Drinking too much alcohol increases your risk of injuries, violence, drowning, liver disease, bad interactions with medications, and some types of cancer.

If you think you could be misusing alcohol, don’t be ashamed to ask for help. April is Alcohol Awareness Month, and it’s the perfect time to remind you that Medicare covers alcohol misuse screening & counseling to provide counseling for people who misuse alcohol.

At risk for diabetes? Take this quick test.

Diabetes affects millions of people – are you one of them? Tuesday, March 24 is American Diabetes Association Alert Day – a great time to take the Diabetes Risk Test to find out if you’re at risk for developing type 2 diabetes – a condition characterized by high blood glucose levels caused by either a lack of insulin or the body’s inability to use insulin efficiently. Type 2 diabetes develops most often in middle-aged and older adults.

Many people with diabetes don’t know that they have it, but Medicare covers screening tests so you can find out if you do.

If you have diabetes, Medicare covers many of your supplies, including insulin, test strips, monitors, lancets and control solutions. In some cases, Medicare also covers therapeutic shoes if you have diabetic foot problems. You pay 20% of the Medicare-approved amount for these supplies.

Medicare also covers diabetes self-management training to help you learn how to better manage your diabetes. You can learn how to monitor your blood sugar, control your diet, exercise, and manage your prescriptions. Talk to your doctor about how this training can help you stay healthy and avoid serious complications.

Take control of your health – talk to your doctor today about screening tests and what supplies and training you may need for your health.

This spring, put prevention into practice

The start of spring is a reminder of new beginnings – the longer hours of daylight, sprouting tulips and warmer weather are all indicators of a new season, and a new reason to be proactive with your health. One simple way to manage your health is to practice preventive care. Preventive services can find health problems early, when treatment works best, so taking advantage of them is a crucial step in maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

If you have Medicare, then you have access to a variety of preventive tests and screenings, most at no cost to you. If you’re new to Medicare, we cover a “Welcome to Medicare” preventive visit during your first 12 months of Part B coverage. This visit includes a review of your medical and social history related to your health and education and counseling about preventive services, including certain screenings, shots, and referrals for other care, if needed.

If you’ve had Part B for longer than 12 months, you can get a yearly wellness visit to develop or update a personalized prevention plan based on your current health and risk factors. In addition to these important wellness visits, Medicare covers screening tests for diabetes, colon cancer, breast cancer, osteoporosis, heart disease, and obesity management, just to name a few. Check out our complete list of Medicare-covered preventive services.

So as you tend to your garden this spring, make a commitment to tend to yourself too. Practice preventive care so you can you stay healthy, live longer, and delay or prevent many diseases.

5 ways to become an informed Medicare consumer

Each day, you make important choices about your finances, health, privacy, and more.

During National Consumer Protection Week (NCPW), the first week of March, non-profit organizations and government agencies focus on helping you take advantage of your rights and make better-informed choices.

Medicare has 5 things you can do to help you become an informed Medicare consumer:

1.     Know your rights. As a person with Medicare, you have certain rights and protections designed to help protect you and make sure you get the health care services the law says you can get.

2.     Protect your identity. Identity theft happens when someone uses your personal information without your consent to commit fraud or other crimes. Keep the following personal information safe:

  • Your name
  • Your Social Security Number (SSN)
  • Your Medicare number (or your membership card if you’re in a Medicare Advantage or other Medicare health plan)
  • Your credit card and bank account numbers

Get more information on how to protect yourself from identity theft.

3.     Help fight Medicare fraud. Medicare fraud takes money from the Medicare program each year, which means higher health care costs for you. Learn how to report fraud.

4.     Get involved with other seniors with the Senior Medicare Patrol (SMP). The SMP educates and empowers people with Medicare to take an active role in detecting and preventing health care fraud and abuse.

5.     Make informed Medicare choices. Each year during the fall Open Enrollment Period (October 15–December 7), review your plan to make sure it’s going to meet your needs for the following year. If you’re not satisfied with your current plan, you can switch during the Open Enrollment Period.

Visit NCPW to learn more about the campaign, see which agencies and organizations are able to help you, and to find out if there are any NCPW activities happening in your area.
Also, check out our videos for tips on preventing Medicare fraud and see how seniors are learning to stop, spot, and report fraud.

Medicare helps you with better nutrition

The saying may go “an apple a day keeps the doctor away,” but that’s not the whole truth. While apples are healthy and delicious, there are many other important factors in having a nutritious diet.

69% of U.S. adults are considered overweight or obese. An unhealthy body weight puts you at a greater risk for many diseases like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and some types of cancer. However, a healthy diet and exercise can help you lower these risks and better your overall health. Not sure how to get started? Medicare can help.

Medicare covers 15-minute face-to-face individual behavioral therapy sessions and 30-minute face-to-face group behavioral counseling sessions to help you lose weight if you have a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more. Find out if you qualify for this service.

The Million Hearts® Healthy Eating & Lifestyle Resource Center can be a good resource in getting or maintaining a healthy diet. 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 and features calorie-controlled, heart-healthy recipes for you and your family.

Planning and understanding your diet can help you stay on track. The SuperTracker on can help you plan, analyze, and track your diet and physical activity.

Start off National Nutrition Month right by having a nutritious diet and becoming a healthier you.

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.