Protect your Medicare by protecting your Medicare number

Are you a bargain hunter? Always looking for the best deal or ready for the next best thing? If someone offered you a state-of-the-art arthritis kit and said Medicare would cover it, would you be interested? There are lots of benefits that come with aging, and discounts are one of them. But discounts and deals that sound too good to be true are one way that fraudsters may try to steal your identity.

When someone steals or unlawfully uses personal information like your Social Security number or your Medicare number, it’s called identity theft. The number of identity theft victims age 65 or older increased from 2.1 million in 2012 to 2.6 million in 2014. In fact, thieves consider your Medicare number and other protected health information more valuable than credit card information because people can reuse them to bill Medicare for services that you didn’t get. When people steal your identity and bill Medicare for items or services you didn’t get, it drives up costs for everyone.

At Medicare, we’re fighting health care fraud, waste, and abuse every day. An important part of that is preventing identity theft. Right now, your Medicare number is based on a Social Security number—yours or someone else’s. Starting in April 2018, we’re replacing the Social Security-based Medicare number with a new Medicare number, and will mail you a new Medicare card with your new number. You don’t have to do anything to get your new card and new number. And we’ll NEVER call you and ask for personal information for you to get your new card.

Remember, the first and best line of defense against fraud is you. You can help fight Medicare fraud in 2 simple steps:

  • Protect your Medicare number—treat it like you treat your credit card number.
  • Check your Medicare statement for errors, like equipment or services you never got.

Learn more about how you can fight Medicare fraud. And find out how to spot, report, and stop fraud, and protect yourself from identity theft with help from the Senior Medicare Patrol.

Finding a hospice provider just got easier

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is working diligently to make healthcare quality information more transparent and understandable for consumers in all stages of life to empower them to take ownership of their healthcare choices. This includes decisions about end-of-life care, when consumers in a time of vulnerability need transparent, digestible information to make the best choice for their care or the care of their loved ones.

We at CMS understand that there are many difficult decisions that come with a terminal illness—including deciding if hospice is right for you and which hospice to choose—which is why we have launched Hospice Compare. This new website will help empower you by allowing you to easily and quickly compare hospice providers on various aspects of care and assess the quality of care that potential hospices provide.

Hospice Compare provides information on hospices across the nation and allows patients, family members, caregivers, and healthcare providers to compare hospice providers based on some key quality metrics, like what percentage of a hospice provider’s patients were screened for pain or difficult or uncomfortable breathing and if their patients’ preferences are being met. Specifically, the quality measures look at the percentages of patients who received recommended treatment, for example:

  • Patients or caregivers who were invited to discuss treatment preferences, like hospitalization and resuscitation, at the beginning of hospice care;
  • Patients or caregivers who were invited to discuss beliefs and values at the beginning of hospice care;
  • Patients who were checked for pain at the beginning of hospice care;
  • Patients who received a timely and thorough pain assessment when pain was identified as a problem;
  • Patients who were checked for shortness of breath at the beginning of hospice care;
  • Patients who got timely treatment for shortness of breath; and
  • Patients taking opioid pain medication who were offered care for constipation.

The information on Hospice Compare can be used along with other information you gather about hospice providers in your area. In addition to reviewing the information on Hospice Compare, you’re encouraged to talk to your doctor, social worker, other healthcare providers, and other community resources when choosing the best hospice for care for you or your loved one.

In addition to Hospice Compare, Medicare also offers a number of other websites that can help you select providers and facilities to meet a wide range of care needs, including Inpatient Rehabilitation Facility Compare; Long-Term Care Hospital Compare; Hospital Compare; Physician Compare; Nursing Home Compare; Medicare Plan Finder; Dialysis Compare; and Home Health Compare.

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.

Manage your chronic conditions with connected care

Wayne is in his early 70s, and has diabetes and a history of high blood pressure. He was overwhelmed trying to manage both conditions at the same time. His doctor told him that Medicare includes chronic care management services to better manage his health conditions. Now, a health care professional helps Wayne keep track of his medical history, medications, and all the doctors he sees.

Like Wayne, about two-thirds of people with Medicare have 2 or more chronic conditions. In fact, about a third of people with Medicare have 4 or more chronic conditions. If you live with 2 or more chronic conditions—like arthritis, asthma, depression, diabetes, osteoporosis and high blood pressure that have lasted, or are expected to last, at least a year—Medicare may pay for a health care provider’s help to manage those conditions.

Chronic care management may include:

  • At least 20 minutes a month of chronic care management services
  • Personalized help from a dedicated health care professional, like a doctor, nurse or physician’s assistant, who will work with you to create a care plan based on your needs and goals
  • Care coordinated between your doctor, pharmacy, specialists, testing centers, hospitals, and other services
  • Phone check-ins between visits to keep you on track
  • Emergency access to a health care professional, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
  • Expert help with setting and meeting your health goals

You may have to pay a monthly copayment for chronic care management services. If you have supplemental insurance or Medicaid, they may help pay the monthly costs.

Wayne now feels reassured knowing he can make contact with a health care professional regardless of the time of day or day of week, and has his high blood pressure and diabetes under control. Get the connected care you need—talk to your doctor or health care professional to see if you’re eligible for chronic care management, and watch our video to learn more about what’s covered. Health care professionals and community partners can learn more by visiting the Connected Care page at go.cms.gov/ccm.

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.