Hospice care: Supporting you and your family

There are many 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 to help terminally ill patients 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 whether hospice care is right for you can be a difficult choice to make, and it’s important to be informed about what hospice covers. Once you choose hospice care, your hospice benefit should cover everything you need.

Here are a few of the services hospice provides:

  • 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.
  • Physical care, counseling, drugs, equipment, and supplies for the terminal illness and related conditions.
  • Support for family caregivers.

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.

Fight lung cancer with Medicare

More men and women in the United States die from lung cancer than any other type of cancer. More than 220,000 people are diagnosed with lung cancer every year. 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 and tobacco use 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.

Diabetes—Are you 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. Get information about how Medicare can help you detect and manage diabetes by watching our video.

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.

Medicare Open Enrollment: Peace of mind with Medicare coverage

Having health insurance with covered benefits that you can count on can bring peace of mind. If you have Medicare, you get benefits like:

Medicare also covers a yearly “wellness visit”. This is a great chance to sit down with your doctor and talk about your needs — and 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.

Most people with Medicare also have access to Medicare Advantage Plans. If you enroll in a Medicare Advantage Plan, you will still get all the Medicare-covered services, but you may also get extra benefits like vision, hearing, dental coverage, prescription drugs, or extended coverage when you travel. You may be able to lower your out-of-pocket costs too. Because costs and coverage vary, it’s important to compare plans before choosing one.

Medicare Open Enrollment is the time to think about and decide what benefits you need to meet your health care needs. Use the Medicare Plan Finder to look at all of the health and drug plan options in your area.

Medicare Open Enrollment: Be a smart shopper

It’s always a good idea to shop around. Cost is an important factor in any purchase, especially when it comes to health insurance, but it’s not the only thing to consider.

There may be dozens of Medicare plans in your area, all with different costs and levels of coverage. How much are each plan’s premiums and deductibles? How much will you pay for the benefits and services you’re likely to use? Is there a limit on what you’ll have to pay out-of-pocket for the year? If you’re currently in a plan, how does that plan compare to the other plans that are available? Thinking about these things will help you make a smart choice to get good value that meets your personal health care needs.

Prescription drug coverage is another thing to consider. Does your health plan include coverage for prescription drugs? Or will you need to find a separate Medicare Part D plan for drug coverage? How much will your prescriptions cost under each plan? Does the plan cover the drugs you take? Remember, everyone who reaches the Part D coverage gap (or “donut hole”) will benefit from a discount of 65% on covered brand-name drugs.

Only you can determine what mix of benefits and costs will work best with your needs and budget, but we can help. The Medicare Plan Finder makes it easy to compare plans so you can pick a plan that’s right for you. After you’ve narrowed your options, call the plans you’re interested in to get more details about their benefits and services, or check out their websites.

You have until December 7, 2017 to review, compare, and join a 2018 plan.

Love your bones

About 25% of women and 6% of men 65 and over will get osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a condition where your bones become weak and puts you at a greater risk for broken bones. In fact, many people don’t know they have it until they break a bone. However, there are steps you can take to make your bones stronger and healthier.

A bone mass measurement can help to see if you’re at risk for broken bones. This can help you find ways to strengthen your bones early and prevent breaks and fractures. Medicare covers this test at no cost if your doctor accepts assignment.

World Osteoporosis Day is October 20 – make this the day you show your bones some love. Talk to your doctor about how you can keep your bones healthy.

Medicare Open Enrollment: ready to choose a plan?

Medicare Open Enrollment starts today! Choosing a plan is an important and personal decision. Now’s the time to think about what matters to you, and find the Medicare plan that meets your needs. Here are some things to think about:

Does the plan cover the services you need?

Think about what services and benefits you’re likely to use in the coming year and find coverage that meets your needs. If you have other types of health or prescription drug coverage, make sure you understand how that coverage works with Medicare. And, if you travel a lot, does your plan cover you when you’re away from home?

No matter what plan you choose, you’ll get these benefits:

What does the plan cost?

The lowest-cost health plan option might not be the best choice for you—consider things like the cost of premiums and deductibles, how much you pay for hospital stays and doctor visits, and whether it’s important for you to have expenses balanced throughout the year.

Are the plan’s providers and rules convenient?

Your time is valuable. Where are the doctors’ offices? What are their hours? Which pharmacies can you use? Can you get prescriptions by mail? Do the doctors use electronic health records or prescribe electronically?

What plans perform the best?

Not all health care is created equal, and the doctors, hospitals and facilities you choose can affect your health. Open Enrollment is also a good time to ask yourself whether you’re truly satisfied with your medical care. Look for plans with a 5‑star performance rating—the right expertise and care can make a difference.

Remember that even if you’re happy with your current plan, these answers might change from year to year—so it’s important to take the time to compare. The Medicare Plan Finder makes it easy to compare plans based on all of these factors, so you can choose a plan that meets your needs.