Protect yourself from hepatitis

Did you know hepatitis kills close to 1.4 million people worldwide every year? Hepatitis, which is an inflammation of the liver often caused by viruses, affects millions of people worldwide. This year, you can join the global movement to eliminate hepatitis as a public health threat, and Medicare can help.

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 Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, and Hepatitis C, the most common types of viral hepatitis in the United States.

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, or
  • You were born between 1945 and 1965

July 28 is World Hepatitis Day. Visit the World Hepatitis Day web page to learn about Nohep, the World Health Alliance’s global movement to eliminate viral hepatitis.

Take control, take the test for HIV

Did you know that 1 in 8 of the more than 1.2 million Americans living with Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) don’t know they have it?

90% of new HIV infections in the U.S. could be prevented by testing, diagnosing, and treating early. It’s important to get HIV-infected people the medical care and support they need to improve their health and help them maintain safer behaviors – and Medicare can help.

Medicare covers HIV screening 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 control. Visit Health & Human Services’ Aids.gov website to learn more about National HIV Testing Day, June 27 and watch our video.

Do Your Part for the Environment—Go Paperless!

On June 5, more than 100 countries worldwide will be celebrating World Environment Day—a day for encouraging awareness and action for the environment. How can you do your part to help the environment?  One great way is to sign up to get your “Medicare & You” handbook electronically.

If you have an eReader (like an iPad, Surface, or Kindle Fire) you can download a free digital version of the “Medicare & You” handbook to your eReader and take it with you anywhere you go.

Don’t have an eReader? You can still sign up to get a paperless version in a few simple steps. We’ll send you an email in September when the new eHandbook is available. The email will explain that instead of getting a paper copy in your mailbox each October, you’ll get an email linking you to the online version of “Medicare & You.” This online version of the handbook contains all the same information as the printed version.

Even better, the handbook information on Medicare.gov is updated regularly, so you can be confident that you have the most up-to-date Medicare information!

Make a difference this World Environment Day – Go paperless, and sign up to get your “Medicare & You” information electronically.

Even “healthy” men need health screenings

Did you ever put off doing a task or getting a test 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 whether you should get screened for prostate cancer, for colorectal cancer, or for 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 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? 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.

 

Today’s the day to quit tobacco

If you or a loved one is hooked on tobacco, make today, May 31—designated by the World Health Organization as World “No Tobacco” Day—your starting point to kick the habit.

Tobacco use is the second leading cause of death worldwide, responsible for 1 in every 10 adult deaths, but Medicare can help you quit smoking. Part B covers up to 8 face-to-face smoking & tobacco use cessation counseling sessions in a 12-month period when you get them from a qualified doctor or other Medicare-recognized practitioner. You pay nothing for the counseling sessions if your doctor or other health care provider accepts assignment.

Watch our video to see how Medicare can help you quit smoking. Also, visit the World Health Organization to learn more about this year’s World No Tobacco Day campaign, a call for plain packaging of tobacco products.

Filing a complaint is easier than ever

We hope that all of your health care experiences are positive. But if they’re not, we want filing a complaint to be as easy as possible. That’s why we offer you a variety of tools to express your concerns. One of those tools is the ability to file a complaint (sometimes called a “grievance”).

Is your concern a complaint or an appeal?

A complaint is different than an appeal. A complaint is about the way your Medicare health plan, Medicare drug plan, or health provider is giving care. Examples of complaints are problems with:

Things to know before you file a complaint

If you have a complaint with your plan, each plan has specific rules you’ll need to know and follow when filing a complaint. If, after filing a complaint, your plan doesn’t address the issue, call 1-800-MEDICARE for help. For any Medicare-related complaint, you can call your State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) for free personalized help.

If you’ve contacted 1-800-MEDICARE about a Medicare-related inquiry or complaint but still need help, ask the 1-800-MEDICARE representative to send your inquiry or complaint to the Medicare Ombudsman’s Office. The Medicare Ombudsman’s Office helps make sure that your inquiry or complaint is resolved.

In addition to basic information like your name and address, have your Medicare card and health plan card (if you have one) readily available when you’re ready to file your complaint. And, in the future, you can also use Medicare’s Blue Button to help. It provides you an easy way to download your personal health information to a file on your own personal computer. Check out the Blue Button through your account on MyMedicare.gov.

Older Americans Month 2016: Blaze a Trail

Did you know that by the year 2029, more than 20% of people in the U.S. will be at retirement age? Older adults are a vital part of our society. Since 1963, communities across the country have shown their gratitude by celebrating Older Americans Month each May. This year, to celebrate the Older Americans Act, we’re raising awareness about important issues facing older adults and highlighting how older Americans are advocating for themselves, their peers, and their communities.

Medicare helps older adults “Blaze a Trail” by helping them stay healthy and offering vital preventive services like mammograms, diabetes screenings, and colorectal cancer screenings. If you’ve had Part B for longer than 12 months, you can get an annual wellness visit to develop or update a personalized prevention help plan to prevent disease and disability based on your current health and risk factors.

No matter what your age is, you can stay healthy, get involved, and be a trailblazer for older Americans.