Get protected from hepatitis

Did you know that hepatitis, an inflammation of the liver caused by a virus, kills nearly 1.4 million people worldwide every year?

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 in severity from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a serious illness that can lead to liver disease or liver cancer.

Medicare can help keep you protected from the most common types of hepatitis. 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). Your risk for Hepatitis B increases if you have hemophilia, End-Stage Renal Disease (ESRD), diabetes, or certain conditions that lower your resistance to infection.

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

There’s a third type of Hepatitis—Hepatitis C. Medicare covers a one-time Hepatitis C screening test if your primary care doctor or practitioner orders it. It also covers yearly repeat screening if 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

You pay nothing for the Hepatitis C screening test if the doctor or other qualified health care provider accepts assignment.

May is Hepatitis Awareness month. To find out more about preventing and treating hepatitis visit the Centers for Disease Control’s Hepatitis web page and check out our video.

Have you checked your blood pressure lately?

When was the last time you checked your blood pressure? Now’s the time to take a fast (less than a minute) and simple test to see if your blood pressure is too high. High blood pressure usually has no signs or symptoms, but it can lead to a higher risk of heart disease, stroke, and kidney failure.

It’s important for you to know your blood pressure numbers, even when you’re feeling fine. Medicare helps make checking your blood pressure easy because it’s covered in your “Welcome to Medicare” preventive visit and yearly “wellness” visits at no cost to you.

If you have high blood pressure, you can control it with lifestyle changes and medicine. You may be at risk for high blood pressure if you:

  • Smoke
  • Eat salty foods
  • Don’t exercise enough
  • Drink more than a moderate amount of alcohol
  • Have a family history of high blood pressure
  • Are overweight

May is National High Blood Pressure Education Month. For more information on how you can combat high blood pressure, visit the Center for Disease Control’s high blood pressure web page and check out our video.

Celebrate Earth Day—Go Paperless!

Nearly 200 countries celebrate Earth Day – a day for encouraging awareness and action for the environment on April 22nd. How can you make your voice heard this year? One great way is to sign up to get your “Medicare & You” handbook electronically.

If you have an eReader (like an iPad, Kindle Fire, Surface, or Galaxy Tab) 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!

Sign up today to get your Medicare & You information electronically, and you’ll be making a difference for the environment. What a great way to make your voice heard and celebrate Earth Day.

Rethink the Drink

There are a lot of changes that happen with age, and some of them, like physical pain, loss of mobility, and loneliness can lead to alcohol misuse. As people age, they become more sensitive to the effects of alcohol. Over time, someone’s drinking habits may become a problem.

Older adults who drink may be at a higher risk for falls or other injuries. And alcohol can make some health problems worse, including diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart problems. It can also cause bad interactions when mixed with prescription or over-the-counter medications. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism recommends adults 65 and over who are healthy and don’t take medications have no more than 3 drinks on a given day or 7 drinks in a week.

If you think you or a loved one could be misusing alcohol, don’t be ashamed to ask for help. April is Alcohol Awareness Month, and it’s the perfect time to remember that Medicare covers alcohol misuse screening & counseling to provide counseling for people who misuse alcohol.

At risk for Diabetes? Take this quick test.

Diabetes affects 22 million people in the U.S.—are you one of them? Tuesday, March 22 is American Diabetes Association Alert Day, and it’s a great time to take the Diabetes Risk Test to find out if you’re at risk for developing type 2 diabetes, a disease where blood glucose levels are higher than normal. Type 2 diabetes develops most often in middle-aged and older adults.

Many people with diabetes don’t know that they have it, but Medicare covers screening tests so you can find out if you do.

If you have diabetes, Medicare covers many of your supplies, including insulintest stripsmonitors, lancets 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.

Take control of your health—talk to your doctor today about screening tests and what supplies and training may help you stay healthy.

5 Ways to Become an Informed Medicare Consumer

Each day, you make important choices about your finances, health, privacy, and more.

During National Consumer Protection Week (NCPW), March 6–12, 2016, non-profit organizations and government agencies can help you take advantage of your rights and make better-informed choices.

There are 5 things you can do to become an informed Medicare consumer:

  1. Know your rights. As a person with Medicare, you have certain rights and protections designed to help protect you and make sure you get the health care services the law says you can get.
  2. Protect your identity. Identity theft happens when someone uses your personal information without your consent to commit fraud or other crimes. Keep this personal information safe:
  • Your name
  • Your Social Security Number (SSN)
  • Your Medicare number (or your membership card if you’re in a Medicare Advantage or other Medicare health plan)
  • Your credit card and bank account numbers

Get more information on how to protect yourself from identity theft.

  1. Help fight Medicare fraud. Medicare fraud takes money from the Medicare program each year, which means higher health care costs for you. Learn how to report fraud.
  2. Get involved with other seniors with the Senior Medicare Patrol (SMP). The SMP educates and empowers people with Medicare to take an active role in detecting and preventing health care fraud and abuse.
  3. Make informed Medicare choices. Each year during the fall Open Enrollment Period (October 15–December 7), review your plan to make sure it will meet your needs for the next year. If you’re not satisfied with your current plan, you can switch during the Open Enrollment Period.

Visit NCPW.gov to learn more about the campaign, see which agencies and organizations are able to help you, and to find out if there are any activities happening in your area. Also, check out our videos for tips on preventing Medicare fraud and see how seniors are learning to stop, spot, and report fraud.

Start this spring right by practicing prevention

After months of blizzards and cold weather, spring is a welcome reminder of new beginnings – the longer hours of daylight, blooming flowers, and warmer weather are all signs of a new season, and a new reason to be proactive with your health. One simple way to manage your health is to practice preventive care. Preventive services can help prevent you from getting sick and find health problems early, when treatment works best, so taking advantage of them is a crucial step in maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

If you have Medicare, then you have access to a variety of preventive tests and screenings, most at no cost to you. If you’re new to Medicare, we cover a “Welcome to Medicare” preventive visit during your first 12 months of Part B coverage. This visit includes a review of your medical and social history related to your health and education and counseling about preventive services, including certain screenings, shots, and referrals for other care, if needed.

If you’ve had Part B for longer than 12 months, you can get a yearly wellness visit to develop or update a personalized prevention plan based on your current health and risk factors. In addition to these important wellness visits, Medicare covers screening tests for diabetes, colon cancer, breast cancer, osteoporosis, heart disease, and obesity management, just to name a few. Check out our complete list of Medicare-covered preventive services.

So as you tend to your garden this spring, make a commitment to tend to yourself too. Practice preventive care so you can you stay healthy and live longer.