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.

Over 65? Age Out Loud!

Today’s older Americans are living longer and better lives. May is Older Americans Month, and it’s the perfect time to celebrate what getting older looks like today. When we come together to celebrate this year’s theme of “Age Out Loud,” we give aging a new voice—one that reflects what you have to say.

How can you get involved? Start by striving for health and wellness. The best way to stay healthy is to live a healthy lifestyle. You can be healthier and prevent disease by exercising, eating well, keeping a healthy weight, and not smoking. We’re here to help!

Medicare covers a yearly “Wellness” visit once each year. Schedule an appointment with your doctor or health care provider to make a plan to help prevent disease and disability. Be sure to print this checklist and take it with you, so you and your provider can talk about what preventive services can keep you healthy. Medicare pays for many of these services.

In addition to striving for wellness, there are lots of activities you can do to amplify your voice and raise awareness of vital aging issues across the country. Be sure to join your peers in trying new things, engaging in your community, focusing on your independence, and advocating for yourself and others.

Help promote Older Americans Month and this year’s theme of Age of Loud by using the hashtags #OAM17 and #AgeOutLoud on social media. Visit oam.acl.gov to learn more about how to celebrate your age.

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!