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.

Don’t let brittle bones shatter your life

Every year, more Americans are diagnosed with osteoporosis—a disease that causes bones to weaken and become more likely to break. You may not know that you have this “silent” disease until your bones are so weak that a sudden strain, bump, or fall causes your wrist to break or your hip to fracture. Learn the facts so you can protect your bones!

Many people believe:

  • Osteoporosis is a natural part of aging that only affects older women.
  • Bone loss can’t be treated once it starts.
  • The only risk of osteoporosis is broken bones from falls.

None of these myths are true. What is true is:

  • While 1 in 3 women over 50 will develop osteoporosis, 1 in 5 men will, too.
  • It’s possible to make bones stronger.
  • Around 25 % of people die within the first 6 to 12 months after a hip fracture.

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—if you’re at risk, Medicare covers this test once every 24 months (more often if medically necessary) when your doctor or other qualified provider orders it.

May is National Osteoporosis Awareness and Prevention Month. Learn more about what puts you at risk for osteoporosis and how to prevent and treat it at the National Osteoporosis Foundation. Watch our short video to learn more about how Medicare can help you protect your bones.

Over 65? Age Out Loud!

Today’s older Americans are living longer and better lives. May is Older Americans Month, and it’s the perfect time to celebrate what getting older looks like today. When we come together to celebrate this year’s theme of “Age Out Loud,” we give aging a new voice—one that reflects what you have to say.

How can you get involved? Start by striving for health and wellness. The best way to stay healthy is to live a healthy lifestyle. You can be healthier and prevent disease by exercising, eating well, keeping a healthy weight, and not smoking. We’re here to help!

Medicare covers a yearly “Wellness” visit once each year. Schedule an appointment with your doctor or health care provider to make a plan to help prevent disease and disability. Be sure to print this checklist and take it with you, so you and your provider can talk about what preventive services can keep you healthy. Medicare pays for many of these services.

In addition to striving for wellness, there are lots of activities you can do to amplify your voice and raise awareness of vital aging issues across the country. Be sure to join your peers in trying new things, engaging in your community, focusing on your independence, and advocating for yourself and others.

Help promote Older Americans Month and this year’s theme of Age of Loud by using the hashtags #OAM17 and #AgeOutLoud on social media. Visit oam.acl.gov to learn more about how to celebrate your age.