Learn the signs for ovarian cancer

Each year, about 20,000 women in the U.S. get ovarian cancer. It’s also the fifth leading cause of cancer death among U.S. women. Early diagnosis is the key to survival, and the key to early diagnosis is recognizing the symptoms of ovarian cancer:

  • Bloating
  • Pelvic or abdominal pain
  • Trouble eating or feeling full quickly
  • Urgency or frequency of urination

Women have unique health concerns, including certain types of cancers and high rates of chronic disease. Medicare covers many services to address these concerns, like a yearly “Wellness” visitbone mass measurementcervical cancer screeningsmammograms, and cardiovascular screenings. Medicare also covers other preventive services, so talk to your doctor about risk factors and to schedule your next screening.

Currently there’s no effective screening test for ovarian cancer, and it can be very hard to identify ovarian cancer early. The signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer aren’t always clear and may be hard to recognize. It’s important to pay attention to your body and know what’s normal for you. If you notice any changes in your body that last for 2 weeks or longer and may be a sign or symptom of ovarian cancer, talk to your doctor and ask about possible causes. Symptoms may be caused by something other than cancer, but the only way to know is to see your doctor, nurse, or other health care professional.

Make sure to ask your doctor about your level of risk for ovarian cancer at your “Welcome to Medicare” visit or your next yearly “Wellness” visit.

September is National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, a perfect time for you to learn more about this disease and know the symptoms. Visit the Centers for Disease Control for more information on ovarian cancer.

Nursing Home Compare quality ratings now work better for you

You may already use our Nursing Home Compare site to compare nursing homes and choose one with quality in mind. We know that nursing homes vary in the quality of care and services they provide to their residents. That’s why we’ve recently updated the ratings on Nursing Home Compare to include new quality measures, giving you even more accurate information.

The new measures include percent of short-stay residents:

  • Who were successfully discharged
  • Who have had an outpatient emergency department visit
  • Who were re-hospitalized after a nursing home admission
  • Who made improvements in function
  • Whose ability to move independently worsened

Nursing homes get star ratings for specific elements, like health inspections, staffing, and quality measures. They also get an overall rating that’s calculated by combining the star ratings for each of the elements. Now that we’ve added the new measures to the calculations, you may notice that the star quality ratings for nursing homes (as well as the overall rating) have changed. The star quality rating system isn’t a substitute for visiting the nursing home, but can give you important information, help you compare nursing homes by topics you consider most important, and help you think of questions to ask when you visit the nursing home.

Sharing quality information through star ratings is just one example of how we’re committed to helping you make health care decisions based upon available information. We’ve added quality ratings to our Dialysis Facility Compare and Home Health Compare sites to help to make data on dialysis centers and home health agencies easier to understand and use. Our Physician Compare site has started to include star ratings in certain situations for physician large group practices, and our Hospital Compare site has an overall star rating for hospitals, and uses star ratings for patients’ experience of care. Check out our compare sites today to get the information you need to best manage your health.

Helping Patients and Their Families Choose Hospitals

Choosing a hospital can be overwhelming. You want to be sure you’re getting high-quality care in a positive environment – and preferably close to home. Because hospitals can differ in the safety and quality of care they give, we’ve made our Hospital Compare website easier to use by adding an overall hospital quality star rating.

You may already use Hospital Compare to view star ratings for patients’ experience of care. Those ratings summarize patients’ perspectives of hospital care and include topics like how well nurses and doctors communicate with patients and how clean and quiet hospitals are. Now, with the addition of an overall hospital quality star rating, you can find a summary of information on hospital quality and compare hospitals side by side using this information.

The new overall hospital quality star rating summarizes a hospital’s performance on 64 measures of quality in 7 areas. Medicare calculates the rating by measuring the quality of routine care hospitals give the average patient, like care you get when being treated for a heart attack or pneumonia. The rating also includes quality measures that focus on infections patients acquire in the hospital, like catheter-associated urinary tract infections. This overall quality rating doesn’t reflect the specialized care many hospitals give, like cutting edge cancer care.

The ratings are based on quality measure scores in 7 areas:

  1. Mortality: Measures show how many patients die, for any reason, within 30 days of admission to a hospital.
  2. Safety of care: Measures show how many people get infections while getting treatment for another condition in a healthcare setting.
  3. Readmissions: Measures show how many patients who have had a recent hospital stay need to go back into a hospital within 30 days of discharge.
  4. Patient experience: Measures show how recently discharged patients responded to a national survey about their hospital experience.
  5. Effectiveness of care: Measures show how often hospitals provide care based on clinical guidelines and best practices that results in the best outcomes for people with certain conditions.
  6. Timeliness of care: Measures show how quickly hospitals give recommended care for people with certain conditions.
  7. Efficient use of medical imaging: Measures show how often a hospital provides people specific tests, such as MRI’s or CT Scans, that create images of parts of the body to screen for or diagnose medical conditions under circumstances where they may not be medically necessary.

Hospitals get an overall rating between 1 to 5 stars. Measures used to calculate the overall hospital quality star rating are based on clinical guidelines and have undergone full scientific review and testing. In general, hospitals with higher ratings (4 or 5 stars) performed better on quality measures compared to other hospitals. Hospitals with lower ratings (1 or 2 stars) didn’t perform as well on measures compared to other hospitals. An explanation for how this overall rating was developed, and a snapshot of hospital performance, can be found here.

The overall star rating is just one resource you can use when choosing a hospital. In addition to the overall hospital quality star rating, you can look at a hospital’s performance for each individual measure to better understand the specifics of that hospital’s quality of care.

Adding an overall hospital quality star rating to Hospital Compare is just one way we’re making quality information more accessible to people with Medicare. These star rating programs are part of the Administration’s Open Data Initiative which aims to make government data freely available and useful while ensuring privacy, confidentiality, and security. Check out our compare sites today to find additional information on quality, and get the information you need to best manage your health. These sites include Nursing Home Compare, Physician Compare, Medicare Plan Finder, Dialysis Compare, and Home Health Compare.

Take the easy step to protect yourself from pneumonia

Did you know that 1,000,000 Americans go to the hospital 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 is spread by direct person-to-person contact. There’s a vaccine to help prevent pneumonia, but only 61% 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

You can learn more about Medicare-covered vaccines by watching our video. Take the easy step towards prevention, and get your pneumococcal shot today.

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.