It’s that time again—flu season! If you get sick, antibiotics won’t always help you. If you get a cold or flu, antibiotics could do more harm than good. That’s because these are viral infections, and antibiotics only cure bacterial infections. Every time you take antibiotics, they kill sensitive bacteria, but resistant germs can survive to grow and multiply. These resistant germs are called “antibiotic-resistant,” and they can lead to severe infections, hospitalizations, and death, especially among people over 65.
This week is Antibiotic Awareness Week. Here are 3 things you can do to make sure you’re using antibiotics the right way:
- Always talk to your doctor before taking an antibiotic to be sure it will treat the infection you have.
- Take antibiotics only to treat bacterial infections. It should be for only as long as your doctor prescribed to treat the infection, to reduce your risk of getting the infection again, or to reduce the risk to those around you.
- Never take antibiotics for a viral infection, like a cold, cough, or flu. Antibiotics won’t cure your virus, they won’t keep those around you from getting sick, and they won’t help you feel better. In fact, taking antibiotics when you have a virus may increase your risk of getting an antibiotic-resistant infection later.
Antibiotics won’t help you recover from a cold or flu, but you can keep yourself from catching the major flu viruses by getting your flu shot! It’s free for people with Medicare, once per flu season when given by doctors or other health care providers (like senior centers and pharmacies) that take Medicare.
Keep your body strong against germs and infections, and learn when antibiotics can work for you!
Are you caring for an aged, ill, or disabled family member? If so, you’re one of about 43.5 million Americans who care for loved ones with a chronic illness, disability, or frailty. Family caregivers provide an average of 24 hours of care per week – when you’re the caregiver, that can make it hard to care for yourself.
November is National Family Caregiver Month – a perfect opportunity to reach out for help if you’re caring for someone with Medicare. If you’re a caregiver, here are 3 things you can do this month to help you help your loved one:
- Visit Acl.gov to find programs and resources that can help support you.
- Make sure your loved one’s Medicare coverage still meets their needs. Medicare Open Enrollment is from now until December 7, and it’s important to take a few minutes to review coverage and pick a plan that works for your loved one.
- Find resources near you by visiting the Administration on Aging’s Eldercare Locator.
This month is also a perfect opportunity to make sure you are getting the care you need for yourself. If you or someone you’re caring for is uninsured, learn more about the Health Insurance Marketplace.
When choosing a health plan, sometimes convenience matters. In addition to cost, coverage, and benefits, here are some other things you may want to consider as you compare Medicare options this year:
Doctor and hospital choice
Do your doctors accept the coverage? Do you pay less if you choose your hospital and health care providers from the plan’s network?
Is the pharmacy you use included in your drug plan’s network? Do they use e-prescribing? Can you get refills by mail? Remember that plan networks can change from year to year. If it’s important to you to stay with the same pharmacy, it’s worth checking to make sure they’ll still be in your plan’s network.
Maybe you travel a lot, or spend part of the year in a different state. If you do, see if your plan will cover you when you’re in all the states where you travel.
Ask yourself if you’re happy with your current plan and the coverage you have to meet your needs. Not all health care is created equal, and the doctors, hospitals and facilities you choose can impact your health. Look for plans with a 5‑star performance rating—the right expertise and care may help speed your recovery and improve your health outcomes.
Your time is valuable—and so is your health. Only you know what mix of coverage and convenience is most important to you and your family.
We’re working hard to make sure you have choices in the way you get your Medicare benefits. Use the Medicare Plan Finder to look at all of the health and drug plan options in your area.
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.
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.
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.
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.