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.

Healthy men need health screenings, too

Have you ever put off doing something and later wished you’d just gotten it over with? If you’re a man with Medicare, now’s the time to talk with your doctor about getting screened for prostate cancercolorectal cancer, or both. Screening tests can find cancer early, when treatment works best.

Don’t put off screenings if you’re worried about the cost—if you’re a man 50 or over, Medicare covers a digital rectal exam and a prostate specific antigen (PSA) test once every 12 months. Also, Medicare covers a variety of colorectal cancer screenings—like the fecal occult blood test, flexible sigmoidoscopy, or colonoscopy—and you pay nothing for most tests.

Did you know that prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men, second only to lung cancer in the number of cancer deaths? It can affect 1 in every 11 men. You’re at a higher risk for getting prostate cancer if you’re a man 50 or older, are African-American, or have a father, brother, or son who has had prostate cancer.

Colorectal cancer is also common among men—in fact, it’s the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States among cancers that affect both men and women. If everyone 50 to 75 got screened regularly, we could avoid as many as 60% of deaths from this cancer.

In most cases, colorectal cancer develops from precancerous polyps (abnormal growths) in the colon or rectum. Fortunately, screening tests can find these polyps, so you can get them removed before they turn into cancer. If you’re 50 or older, or have a personal or family history of colorectal issues, make sure you get screened regularly for colorectal cancer.

June is Men’s Health Month, a perfect time for you (and the men in your life) to take the steps to live a safer, healthier life. Watch our video on how Medicare has you covered on colorectal cancer screenings, and visit the Men’s Health Network website on Men’s Health Month for more information.

Include tobacco in your spring cleaning!

This year include tobacco in your annual spring cleaning, and haul away those cigarette butts for good! Why? Because tobacco use is the second leading cause of death worldwide, responsible for 1 in every 10 adult deaths. If you or someone you love is ready, Medicare can help you quit smoking.

Medicare Part B covers up to 8 face-to-face counseling sessions in a 12-month period when you get them from a qualified doctor or other qualified health care provider. You pay nothing for these sessions if your doctor or other health care provider accepts assignment.

Bring out the trash bags and brooms—and make May 31, World “No Tobacco” Day, your day for a clean start.

Visit the Centers for Disease Control and the National Cancer Institute to learn more about how you can quit smoking. You can also watch our video to learn more about how Medicare can help you kick the smoking habit.

Not getting quality care? Let us know.

Did you know that if you’re unhappy with your medical care, there are ways to let us know? You have the right to get high-quality care, and if you think you haven’t, you can file a complaint. If you disagree with a coverage or payment decision made by Medicare, your Medicare health plan, or Medicare Prescription Drug Plan, you can file an appeal.

How you file a complaint depends on what or who it’s about. Each health or drug plan has its own rules for filing complaints, so check out the pages below depending on what type of complaint you have:

If you file a complaint with your plan and still need help, call 1-800-MEDICARE.

For other kinds of Medicare-related complaints, you can call your State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) for free, personalized help.

And, if you’ve contacted 1-800-MEDICARE about a Medicare complaint and still need help, ask the 1-800-MEDICARE representative to send your complaint to the Medicare Beneficiary Ombudsman. The Ombudsman staff helps make sure your complaint is resolved.

Remember, quality care is your right—if you’re not getting it, you can complain and be heard.

Stroke Awareness—Know the Signs

Linda was excited for her monthly appointment with her massage therapist Janine. Linda gets massage therapy to help ease chronic pain. Toward the end of her session, something strange began to happenLinda’s entire body went numb and she couldn’t move. When she tried to speak, she couldn’t. Janine saw Linda’s mouth drooping on her left side. After about 45 seconds, the symptoms disappeared.

While Linda seemed ok, Janine was concerned so she called 911. Janine wrote down everything she witnessed, including the time and how long her symptoms lasted so Linda could give it to the emergency room doctors. After many tests Linda learned that she’d had a stroke.

A stroke is a brain attack caused by blocked blood flow to the brain that can affect a person’s speech, movement, memory, and more. Some of the warning signs of a stroke include:

  • Weakness in the face, arm, or leg
  • Speech difficulty
  • Vision loss
  • Dizziness
  • Brief loss of consciousness

If you think you or a loved one is having a stroke, call 911 immediately and note the time when the first symptoms appeared.

Unfortunately, Linda’s experience isn’t uncommon, and her risk of having another stroke is higher than someone who hasn’t had one. Stroke is the fifth leading cause of death in the United States and is a major cause of serious disability for adults. About 795,000 people in the U.S. have a stroke each year. Anyone can have a stroke at any age. But certain things can increase your chances of having a stroke, like smoking and drinking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and bad eating habits.

Up to 80% of strokes may be prevented by living a healthy lifestyle and taking advantage of these Medicare preventive services:

In most cases, you’ll pay nothing for these services.

Are you new to Medicare? No worries. You can get a “Welcome to Medicare” preventive visit where your doctor will give you information about all of the free screenings and preventive services that are available to you.

Talk to your doctor about ways you can take small steps now to improve your health. For more details about Medicare’s coverage of preventive services, get a copy of “Your Guide to Medicare’s Preventive Services.”

Protect yourself from hepatitis with Medicare

Did you know that hepatitis kills close to 1.4 million people every year? Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver caused by a virus, resulting in acute and chronic liver disease.

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 the most common types of viral hepatitis strains—Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C.

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.
  • You were born between 1945 and 1965.

May is Hepatitis Awareness month. Find out more about preventing and treating hepatitis.

Don’t let brittle bones shatter your life

Every year, more Americans are diagnosed with osteoporosis—a disease that causes bones to weaken and become more likely to break. You may not know that you have this “silent” disease until your bones are so weak that a sudden strain, bump, or fall causes your wrist to break or your hip to fracture. Learn the facts so you can protect your bones!

Many people believe:

  • Osteoporosis is a natural part of aging that only affects older women.
  • Bone loss can’t be treated once it starts.
  • The only risk of osteoporosis is broken bones from falls.

None of these myths are true. What is true is:

  • While 1 in 3 women over 50 will develop osteoporosis, 1 in 5 men will, too.
  • It’s possible to make bones stronger.
  • Around 25 % of people die within the first 6 to 12 months after a hip fracture.

Medicare can help you prevent or detect osteoporosis at an early stage, when treatment works best. Talk to your doctor about getting a bone mass measurement—if you’re at risk, Medicare covers this test once every 24 months (more often if medically necessary) when your doctor or other qualified provider orders it.

May is National Osteoporosis Awareness and Prevention Month. Learn more about what puts you at risk for osteoporosis and how to prevent and treat it at the National Osteoporosis Foundation. Watch our short video to learn more about how Medicare can help you protect your bones.