Protecting yourself from pneumonia is easy

Did you know that 674,000 Americans go to the emergency room with pneumonia every year? Pneumonia is a lung infection caused by pneumococcal disease, which can also cause blood infections and meningitis. The bacteria that causes pneumococcal disease spreads by direct person-to-person contact. There’s a vaccine to help prevent pneumonia, but only 64% of adults 65 and over have ever gotten it.

Medicare can help protect you from pneumococcal infections. The pneumococcal shot is the best way to help prevent these infections. Medicare Part B covers the shot and a second shot one year after you got the first shot.

You may be at a higher risk for these infections if you:

  • Are 65 or older
  • Have a chronic illness (like asthma, diabetes, or lung, heart, liver, or kidney disease)
  • Have a condition that weakens your immune system (like HIV, AIDS, or cancer)
  • Live in a nursing home or other long-term care facility
  • Have cochlear implants or cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) leaks
  • Smoke tobacco

Learn more about Medicare-covered vaccines by watching our video. Preventing pneumonia is easy—get your pneumococcal shot today.

Medicare helps protect you from hepatitis

Did you know viral hepatitis is one of the leading causes of death globally, accounting for 1.34 million deaths per year? Together, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C cause 80% of liver cancer cases in the world.

Hepatitis, which is an inflammation of the liver often caused by viruses, affects millions of people worldwide. Fortunately, Medicare can help keep you protected from Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, and Hepatitis C, the most common types of viral hepatitis in the United States.

Hepatitis is contagious. For example, 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.

Generally, Medicare Part D (prescription drug coverage) covers Hepatitis A shots when medically necessary.

Medicare Part B (Medical Insurance) covers Hepatitis B shots, which usually are given as a series of 3 shots over a 6-month period. You need all 3 shots for complete protection.

Medicare also covers a one-time Hepatitis C screening test if your primary care doctor or practitioner orders it and you meet one of these conditions:

  • You’re at high risk because you have a current or past history of illicit injection drug use
  • You had a blood transfusion before 1992, or
  • You were born between 1945 and 1965

July 28 is World Hepatitis Day. Visit the Centers for Disease Control’s Viral Hepatitis page to learn more about the different forms of hepatitis and what you can do to help eliminate them from spreading.

Take charge, take the test for HIV

Did you know that 1 in 7 of the more than 1.1 million Americans living with Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) don’t know they have it?

Getting medical care, support, and maintaining safe behaviors can help improve the health and lives of people living with HIV. Medicare can help.

Medicare covers HIV screenings for people with Medicare of any age who ask for the test, pregnant women, and people at increased risk for the infection (such as gay and bisexual men, injection drug users, or people with multiple sexual partners).

HIV is the virus that can lead to Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome, or AIDS. There have been many advances in treatment, but early testing and diagnosis play key roles in reducing the spread of the disease, extending life expectancy, and cutting costs of care.

Take the test. Take charge. Visit Health & Human Services’ HIV.gov website to learn more about National HIV Testing Day, June 27, and watch our video.

Planning a summer vacation? Pack your health coverage!

If you’re planning a vacation abroad this summer, you already know that there’s a lot to do before you leave. There are suitcases to pack, an itinerary to plan, and perhaps a passport to renew. We want you to have the most relaxing vacation possible, so before you go don’t forget to:

  1. Look into Medicare coverage outside the United States.
  2. Think about getting additional health care coverage.

If you have Original Medicare, your health care services and supplies are covered when you’re in the U.S. (which includes Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, and the Northern Mariana Islands).

But, if you plan to travel overseas or outside the U.S. (including to Canada or Mexico), it’s important to know that in most cases, Medicare won’t pay for health care services or supplies you get outside the U.S. (except in these rare cases).

That doesn’t mean you have to travel without coverage. There are several ways you can get health coverage outside the U.S.:

  1. If you have a Medigap policy, check your policy to see if it includes coverage outside the U.S.
  2. If you get your health care from another Medicare health plan (rather than Original Medicare), check with your plan to see if they offer coverage outside the U.S.
  3. Purchase a travel insurance policy that includes health coverage.

In all 3 cases, check with your policy or plan before traveling and make sure you understand what is covered outside the U.S. For information on other foreign travel situations (like a cruise, dialysis, or prescription drugs) you can watch this video.

Taking the time to plan out your health care coverage before you travel abroad will help you to have an enjoyable and relaxing trip. For more information on how to stay healthy abroad, visit the Centers for Disease Control’s Traveler’s Health page.

Healthy men need health screenings, too

Have you ever put off doing something and later wished you’d just gotten it over with? If you’re a man with Medicare, now’s the time to talk with your doctor about getting screened for prostate cancercolorectal cancer, or both. Screening tests can find cancer early, when treatment works best.

Don’t put off screenings if you’re worried about the cost—if you’re a man 50 or over, Medicare covers a digital rectal exam and a prostate specific antigen (PSA) test once every 12 months. Also, Medicare covers a variety of colorectal cancer screenings—like the fecal occult blood test, flexible sigmoidoscopy, or colonoscopy—and you pay nothing for most tests.

Did you know that prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men, second only to lung cancer in the number of cancer deaths? It can affect 1 in every 11 men. You’re at a higher risk for getting prostate cancer if you’re a man 50 or older, are African-American, or have a father, brother, or son who has had prostate cancer.

Colorectal cancer is also common among men—in fact, it’s the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States among cancers that affect both men and women. If everyone 50 to 75 got screened regularly, we could avoid as many as 60% of deaths from this cancer.

In most cases, colorectal cancer develops from precancerous polyps (abnormal growths) in the colon or rectum. Fortunately, screening tests can find these polyps, so you can get them removed before they turn into cancer. If you’re 50 or older, or have a personal or family history of colorectal issues, make sure you get screened regularly for colorectal cancer.

June is Men’s Health Month, a perfect time for you (and the men in your life) to take the steps to live a safer, healthier life. Watch our video on how Medicare has you covered on colorectal cancer screenings, and visit the Men’s Health Network website on Men’s Health Month for more information.

Include tobacco in your spring cleaning!

This year include tobacco in your annual spring cleaning, and haul away those cigarette butts for good! Why? Because tobacco use is the second leading cause of death worldwide, responsible for 1 in every 10 adult deaths. If you or someone you love is ready, Medicare can help you quit smoking.

Medicare Part B covers up to 8 face-to-face counseling sessions in a 12-month period when you get them from a qualified doctor or other qualified health care provider. You pay nothing for these sessions if your doctor or other health care provider accepts assignment.

Bring out the trash bags and brooms—and make May 31, World “No Tobacco” Day, your day for a clean start.

Visit the Centers for Disease Control and the National Cancer Institute to learn more about how you can quit smoking. You can also watch our video to learn more about how Medicare can help you kick the smoking habit.

Protect yourself from hepatitis with Medicare

Did you know that hepatitis kills close to 1.4 million people every year? Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver caused by a virus, resulting in acute and chronic liver disease.

Hepatitis is contagious. For example, 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.

Fortunately, Medicare can help keep you protected from the most common types of viral hepatitis strains—Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C.

Generally, Medicare Part D (prescription drug coverage) covers Hepatitis A shots when medically necessary.

Medicare Part B (Medical Insurance) covers Hepatitis B shots, which usually are given as a series of 3 shots over a 6-month period (you need all 3 shots for complete protection).

Medicare covers a one-time Hepatitis C screening test if your primary care doctor or practitioner orders it and you meet one of these conditions:

  • You’re at high risk because you have a current or past history of illicit injection drug use.
  • You had a blood transfusion before 1992.
  • You were born between 1945 and 1965.

May is Hepatitis Awareness month. Find out more about preventing and treating hepatitis.