Stop the flu before it starts

Flu season is back, which means it’s time to protect yourself and loved ones by getting a free flu shot.

Flu viruses change from year to year, so it’s important to get a flu shot each flu season. It’s free for people with Medicare, once per flu season when you get it by doctors or other health care providers (like senior centers and pharmacies) that take Medicare.

National Influenza Vaccination Week is December 4–10. You can stop the flu before it stops you.

Wear your red ribbon for World AIDS Day

Did you know that 50,000 people in the U.S. get HIV each year? Of the 1.2 million people currently living with HIV in the U.S., 1 in 8 don’t even know they have it. Medicare covers HIV screening for people with Medicare 15-65 years old who ask for the test and pregnant women.

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. However, thanks to better treatments, many people with HIV and AIDS in the U.S. are living longer. Testing is 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.

Visit CDC.gov to learn more about their Act Against AIDS campaign. To find an HIV test site, visit Gettested.cdc.gov, or text your zip code to “KNOWIT” (566948).

December 1 is World AIDS Day, and with leadership and commitment, we can make an impact. Wear your red ribbon to show your support.

 

Caregivers need help too

Are you caring for an aged, seriously ill or disabled family member? If so, you’re one of about 44 million Americans who care for loved ones with a chronic illness, disability, or frailty. 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.

If you’re caring for someone, here are a few things you can do:

  1. 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.
  2. Find resources near you by visiting the Eldercare Locator.
  3. Make sure your loved one gets their flu shot. It’s free for people with Medicare, once per flu season when it’s given by doctors or other health care providers that take Medicare.

Remember to take time to get the care you need for yourself. If you or someone you’re caring for is uninsured, learn more about the Health Insurance Marketplace.

Medicare Open Enrollment: time is running out

“To do” lists are very helpful during this hectic time of year. If something important isn’t written down, it’s easy to forget. If you still haven’t crossed off “Compare Medicare coverage” from your “to do” list, time is running out!

Medicare Open Enrollment ends next week on December 7. To help you sort through your choices, try using the Medicare Plan Finder. You can review the plan options in your area and decide the best mix of benefits and costs that meets your needs and budget.

In these last few days of Medicare Open Enrollment, take a second to review your health care coverage and see if you need to make any changes for next year. If you decide you’re happy with the plan you have now, and the plan’s still being offered next year, you don’t need to do anything. But if you’re thinking about making any changes, now’s the time to act so you can cross another item off your “to do” list.

Prescription drug plan premiums: make it automatic

We like when things are automatic. From smart phone reminders to automatic coffee makers—it’s nice when something’s done before we even need to think about doing it. Whether you’ve already picked a new plan for 2017, or decided to keep the plan you had in 2016, something you might not have thought about is paying the monthly premium.

Most Medicare Prescription Drug Plans charge a monthly fee that varies by plan. You pay this in addition to the Medicare Part B premium. It’s important to pay this premium on time to keep your coverage and the peace of mind that comes with it. Did you know that you can have this premium automatically deducted from your monthly Social Security payment?

All you need to do is contact your drug plan (not Social Security). Your first deduction will usually take 3 months to start, and 3 months of premiums will likely be deducted at once. After that, only 1 premium will be deducted each month. You may also see a delay in premiums being withheld if you switch plans. If you want to stop premium deductions and get billed directly, just let your plan know.

Take the worry and guesswork out of when to pay your premium bills, and contact your plan today.

Today can be the day you quit smoking

Smoking tobacco can cause many health problems, like heart disease, respiratory diseases, and lung cancer —the leading cause of cancer death in the U.S. About 40 million people in the U.S. still smoke tobacco, but quitting can help prevent these health problems. You can quit smoking today, and Medicare wants to help.

November isn’t just for Thanksgiving. It’s also Lung Cancer Awareness Month and the Great American Smokeout. While you’re preparing for the upcoming holiday season, don’t forget 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. Watch our video to learn more about Medicare’s benefits to help you quit.

Join the Great American Smokeout, and take the important step towards a healthier life.

Get smart about antibiotics

Flu season is here again! But if you get sick, antibiotics won’t always help you. If you get a cold or flu, antibiotics could do more harm than good. That’s because these are viral infections, and antibiotics only cure bacterial infections. Every time you take antibiotics, they kill sensitive bacteria, but resistant germs can survive to grow and multiply. These resistant germs are called “antibiotic-resistant,” and they can 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 the right way:

  1. Take antibiotics only to treat bacterial infections. 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, like a cold, cough, or flu. Antibiotics won’t cure your virus, they won’t keep those around you from getting sick, 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 you can 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 when given by doctors or other health care providers (like senior centers and pharmacies) that take Medicare.

“Get smart” today. Learn when antibiotics can work for you!