Ready to quit tobacco?

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.

National Women’s Health Week: The Dangers of Using Tobacco Products

By: Lawrence R. Deyton, M.S.P.H., M.D. Crosspost from FDA Voice

The health of every American is of the utmost importance to the Food and Drug Administration, which regulates the manufacture, marketing, and distribution of tobacco products.  Our Center for Tobacco Products works to improve public health, with the goal of making sure that tobacco-related death and disease is part of America’s past, not its future.National Women’s Health Week, May 13-19, provides an opportunity for us to reach out and remind the women in our lives about the dangers of tobacco use and exposure to second-hand smoke — which claims the lives of nearly 200,000 women every year.

Never starting to use tobacco products and quitting tobacco use – for those who do use tobacco – is proven to lead to longer and healthier lives for everyone.

There is no question that tobacco use is dangerous to women. Just consider a few of the facts:

  • An estimated 173,940 women die every year due to cigarette smoking
  • An estimated 18,000 non-smoking women die every year from exposure to second-hand smoke
  • Smoking causes almost 80% of lung cancer deaths in women
  • Smoking causes cervical cancer and eight other cancers
  • Smoking causes infertility and poor pregnancy outcomes
  • Smoking causes low bone density and hip fractures in women

National Women’s Health Week is the perfect time for you — or one of the important women in your life — to break a dangerous addiction to tobacco, and for those who do not use tobacco, it is a time to be empowered to never start. Need help? Here are some great resources:

When we spend countless hours taking care of our families and friends, it’s far too easy to forget to look after our own health. This coming week, make an investment in yourself and the women who are close to you by committing to a life that’s free of tobacco-related disease and death.

Lawrence R. Deyton, M.S.P.H., M.D., is the Director of FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products

Protect yourself from Hepatitis B

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.

Fighting Fraud and Making Medicare Stronger

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.
Fighting Medicare Fraud Infographic Promo

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

Nancy-Ann DeParle is Assistant to the President and Deputy Chief of Staff

Are your bones weak?

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:

  • White
  • 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.

Check Your Blood Pressure Regularly

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.