When’s the last time you checked your blood pressure?

Now’s the time to take a quick and easy 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. Checking your blood pressure is 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. Get information from the Center for Disease Control on how to fight high blood pressure and check out our video.

Celebrate Earth Day—Go Paperless!

Nearly 200 countries celebrate Earth Day on April 22—a day for encouraging awareness and action for the environment. How can you make your voice heard this year? Let Medicare help!

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 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. 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!

Another way is to go paperless and get your “Medicare Summary Notices” electronically (also called “eMSNs”). You can sign up by visiting MyMedicare.gov. If you sign up for eMSNs, we’ll send you an email each month when they’re available in your MyMedicare.gov account. These eMSNs contain the same information as paper MSNs. You won’t get printed copies of your MSNs in the mail if you choose eMSNs.

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

Get help with your Medicare costs

If you’re among the many Americans facing challenges with their health care costs, there may be ways you can save money if you have Medicare.

If you have limited income and resources, you may qualify for Medicaid—a joint federal and state program that helps with medical costs. Even if you don’t qualify for Medicaid, there are other programs that may help you pay for your Medicare premiums and other costs.

Medicare has 4 savings programs that may help with your health care costs:

  1. Qualified Medicare Beneficiary (QMB) Program
  2. Specified Low-Income Medicare Beneficiary (SLMB) Program
  3. Qualifying Individual (QI) Program
  4. Qualified Disabled and Working Individuals (QDWI) Program

If you qualify for Medicaid or one of the Medicare Savings Programs above, you’ll also get Extra Help paying for your prescription drugs automatically. Extra Help is a Medicare program that helps people with limited income or resources pay Medicare prescription drug costs, like premiums, deductibles and coinsurance. If you don’t automatically qualify Extra Help, you can apply online at SSA.gov.

It’s important to call or fill out an application if you think you could qualify for savings—even if your income or resources are higher than the amounts listed on Medicare.gov. These amounts change yearly, and there may be another savings program you’re eligible for depending on your situation. To find out if you’re eligible for savings through one of these programs, call your state Medicaid program. Also, watch our video to find out more ways you can save money on your Medicare coverage.

Take care of all of you!

This April 7, we celebrate World Health Day, a day that reminds us that to live a healthy lifestyle, we need to take care of ourselves. Medicare helps you do that with many preventive services and programs to monitor your physical health.

But, taking care of your mental health is just as important as taking care of your physical health. The focus of this year’s World Health Day is depression, so we’re making an effort to spread the word about all of the mental health resources available to people with Medicare.

Mental health includes your emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how you think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how you handle stress, relate to others, and make choices.

Medicare helps cover outpatient and inpatient mental health care, as well as partial hospitalization and screenings for depression. If you have Medicare prescription drug coverage, you may also have coverage for medications to help treat a mental health condition.

Taking care of your health is about more than just your physical health—it’s about taking care of all of you!

Think before you drink

A lot of changes happen with age, like pain, loss of mobility, and loneliness. Sometimes, this can lead to alcohol misuse. As you get older, you may become more sensitive to alcohol, and your regular drinking habits could become a problem.

Medicare covers alcohol misuse screening & counseling to provide counseling for people who misuse alcohol. Older adults who drink may be at a higher risk for falls or other injuries. Alcohol can also make some health problems worse, like diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart problems. It can also cause dangerous 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 now is the perfect time to get help and stay healthy.

At risk for diabetes? Take this quick test.

Diabetes affects 29 million people in the U.S.—are you one of them? Tuesday, March 28 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 insulin, test strips, monitors, 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.

Know your rights and protections

Did you know that Medicare works hard to protect your rights? Knowing about these safeguards will go a long way to help keep you, your privacy, and your identity safe. It’s National Consumer Protection Week, so this is a great time to learn about your Medicare rights.

No matter how you get your Medicare, you have rights and protections that:

  • Protect you when you get health care.
  • Make sure you get the health care services that the law says you can get.
  • Protect you against unethical practices.
  • Protect your privacy.

You can also file a complaint if you have a concern about the quality of care or other services you get from a Medicare provider. If you believe your care wasn’t covered but should’ve been, then you can file an appeal. The Medicare Beneficiary Ombudsman can help you with your rights and protections.

Be a smart and safe health care consumer; understand your rights and protections.