Saving money on health costs: get Extra Help

Have you ever found yourself skipping a day of your medication or cutting your pills in half to make your supply last a little longer? Or, have you put off filling a prescription because you’re having trouble making ends meet? If so, we can help. Medicare has a special program called “Extra Help.”

If you have limited income and resources, you can sign up to get help paying things like monthly premiums, annual deductibles, and prescription copayments in your Medicare drug plan. Drug costs in 2016 for most people who qualify will be no more than $2.95 for each generic drug and $7.40 for each brand-name drug. The 2017 drug cost amounts aren’t available yet. Check back early next year for the new amounts.

Even if you’re not sure you’d qualify, it’s worth filling out an application to see. Many people with Medicare may be eligible for the Extra Help program but don’t even know it. Are you or a family member one of them?

It’s easy and free to apply for Extra Help. Here’s how:

Don’t wait – apply today to see if you qualify for some extra help with your health costs.

Diabetes—Could you be at risk?

Millions of Americans have or are at risk for diabetes, one of the leading causes of death in the United States. The disease can lead to kidney failure, amputations, and blindness. November is American Diabetes Month, the perfect time for you to find out if you’re at risk and learn about the benefits Medicare covers if you have diabetes.

Many people with diabetes don’t know that they have it—fortunately, Medicare covers screening tests so you can find out if you do. If you’re at high risk for developing diabetes, Medicare covers up to 2 fasting blood glucose (blood sugar) tests each year. If your doctor accepts assignment, you pay nothing for these tests. You may be at high risk for diabetes if you’re obese, have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or a family history of diabetes. Talk to your doctor to find out when you should get your free screening test.

If you have diabetes, Medicare covers many of your supplies, including test strips, monitors, 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.

Medicare also offers the Everyone with Diabetes Counts (EDC) program—a program that offers self-management group sessions to some people who live in underserved and rural communities. If you’re eligible, you pay nothing to participate in the program. To find out if you’re eligible or if there’s an available class near you, contact the Quality Innovation Network – Quality Improvement Organization (QIN-QIO) in your state.

You can learn more about American Diabetes Month and how to prevent and treat this disease from the American Diabetes Association at diabetes.org.

Take steps to fight diabetes today—talk to your doctor today about screening tests and what supplies and training you may need to stay healthy.

Hospice care: Comfort and support for you and your family

It’s never easy to face the difficult decisions that come with a terminal illness, like considering whether hospice is right for you. The thought of hospice can be scary, but it’s important to learn about your options.

Medicare covers hospice care so that those who are terminally ill can spend the last moments of their lives with dignity and comfort, among loved ones. Hospice focuses on comfort or “palliative care,” not curing an illness.

Deciding you need hospice care can be a difficult choice to make, and it’s important to be informed about what hospice covers. Here are a few of the services hospice provides:

  • You can get care in your home.
  • A specially-trained team of professionals and caregivers provide care for the “whole person,” including your physical, emotional, social, and spiritual needs.
  • Services typically include physical care, counseling, drugs, equipment, and supplies for the terminal illness and related conditions.
  • Support for family caregivers.
  • Once you choose hospice care, your hospice benefit should cover everything you need.

November is National Hospice and Palliative Care Month, a good time to learn more about the care and support available to people who are terminally ill.

Breathe easy—Fight lung cancer with Medicare

More men and women in the United States die from lung cancer than any other type of cancer. Every year, more than 200,000 people are diagnosed with lung cancer. The best way to lower your chances of developing lung cancer is to quit smoking and stop using tobacco products.

If you use tobacco, Medicare Part B covers up to 8 face-to-face smoking cessation counseling visits in a 12-month period and a lung cancer screening once per year. You pay nothing for these services if your doctor accepts assignment. Watch our video to learn more about how Medicare can help you quit.

Want to learn more about how smoking affects your health or to find tips and resources to help you quit? Visit Smokefree.gov, or call the National Network of Tobacco Cessation Quitline at 1-800-QUITNOW (1-800-784-8669).

November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month. Breathe easier knowing Medicare is here to help keep you healthy.

Medicare Open Enrollment: the value of convenience

Have you ever bought milk from the convenience store just around the corner even though it’s a bit more expensive than buying it at the grocery store? Most of us have made decisions to do or not do something based on convenience.

The same is true when it comes to choosing a health plan: convenience matters. So in addition to cost, coverage, and benefits, here are some other things you may want to consider as you compare Medicare options this year:

Doctor and hospital choice

You want to be comfortable with the people you’re working with, especially when it comes to something as private as your health. Do the doctors you know accept your coverage? Where are the doctors’ offices? What are their hours? Do they often keep you waiting?

Pharmacy access

Is the pharmacy you use included in your drug plan’s network? Do they use e-prescribing? Can you get refills by mail? Remember that plan networks can change from year to year. If it’s important to you to stay with the same pharmacy, it’s worth checking to make sure they’ll still be in your plan’s network.

Travel

Maybe you travel a lot, or spend part of the year in a different state. If you do, see if your coverage will travel with you.

Quality

Ask yourself whether you’re truly satisfied with your medical care. Not all health care is created equal, and the doctors, hospitals and facilities you choose can impact your health. Look for plans with a 5‑star performance rating — the right expertise and care may help speed your recovery and improve your outcomes.

Your time is valuable — and so is your health. Only you know what mix of coverage and convenience is most important to you and your family.

We’re working hard to make sure you have choices in the way you get the Medicare benefits you’ve earned – and we want you to be comfortable. Use the Medicare Plan Finder to look at all of the health and drug plan options in your area.

Find the dialysis center that’s right for you

If you or a loved one has kidney problems requiring dialysis, often known as End-stage Renal Disease (ESRD), you know finding the right care can be a challenge. Dialysis centers can vary in the quality of care and services they provide, so it’s important to understand the differences in dialysis centers in your area before you decide where to go for care. If you’re already on dialysis, it’s also important to understand the quality of care that your dialysis center delivers. Dialysis Facility Compare lets you search for dialysis centers, compare them side by side, and find the right one for you.

In response to feedback from ESRD dialysis patients and experts in kidney care, we’ve recently added more information to the Dialysis Facility Compare website, including information about patients’ experiences with dialysis centers. Now you can see how patients responded to a survey that asked questions about their dialysis center, their kidney doctor, and the center’s staff.

“The changes we’ve made to the Dialysis Facility Compare website are in direct response to the important feedback we received from patients and families, like you, about what’s most important in selecting your dialysis facility,” said Kate Goodrich, M.D., director of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Center for Clinical Standards and Quality. “We remain committed to seeking and incorporating input from all stakeholders, but especially patients, on an ongoing basis so that we can continually improve our Compare sites.”

Dialysis Facility Compare also features:

  • A star rating for each dialysis center that now reflects changes in quality for each center, from one year to the next.
  • Two new quality measures—one that tells you how often patients develop bloodstream infections at each center, and another that tells you how well the center manages peritoneal dialysis on children.
  • An improved website that makes it easier to find the information you’re looking for, and makes complex quality information easier to understand.

Take control of your dialysis care today. Visit Dialysis Facility Compare and find the dialysis center that’s right for you.

Medicare also offers a number of other Compare websites that can help you select providers across your care needs, including Nursing Home Compare, Physician Compare, Hospital Compare, and Home Health Compare. Visit these websites to learn more about our efforts to make health care quality information more transparent.

Medicare Open Enrollment: Peace of mind with extra coverage

Going through the process of buying a new smartphone or tablet takes a bit of elbow grease, but when the salesman throws in free accessories and tech support, it’s worth it. There’s a peace of mind knowing that the support you’ll need is free.

Extra benefits and peace of mind can be a big plus in health coverage, too.

If you have Medicare, thanks to the health care law, you get to enjoy extra benefits like these:

Medicare also covers a yearly “wellness visit” each year. This is a great chance to sit down with your doctor and talk about your needs so you can address small health concerns before they become big ones. You can keep track of your preventive services and get reminders for them at MyMedicare.gov.

Also, most people with Medicare have access to Medicare Advantage Plans, and many of these plans offer extra benefits that Original Medicare doesn’t cover like vision, hearing, dental coverage, prescription drugs, or extended coverage when you travel.

Just like deciding which smartphone to buy, only you know what extra benefits and services are most important for you and your family.

During Medicare Open Enrollment, decide what benefits are most important in helping you meet your unique health care needs. Use the Medicare Plan Finder to look at all of the health and drug plan options in your area.