Today can be the day you quit smoking

Smoking tobacco can cause many health problems, like heart disease, respiratory diseases, and lung cancer —the leading cause of cancer death in the U.S. About 40 million people in the U.S. still smoke tobacco, but quitting can help prevent these health problems. You can quit smoking today, and Medicare wants to help.

November isn’t just for Thanksgiving. It’s also Lung Cancer Awareness Month and the Great American Smokeout. While you’re preparing for the upcoming holiday season, don’t forget to talk with your doctor about quitting if you smoke. Medicare covers 8 face-to-face smoking cessation counseling sessions during a 12-month period. If you haven’t been diagnosed with an illness caused or complicated by tobacco use, you pay nothing for these counseling sessions, as long as you get them from a qualified doctor or another Medicare provider. Watch our video to learn more about Medicare’s benefits to help you quit.

Join the Great American Smokeout, and take the important step towards a healthier life.

Get smart about antibiotics

Flu season is here again! But if you get sick, antibiotics won’t always help you. If you get a cold or flu, antibiotics could do more harm than good. That’s because these are viral infections, and antibiotics only cure bacterial infections. Every time you take antibiotics, they kill sensitive bacteria, but resistant germs can survive to grow and multiply. These resistant germs are called “antibiotic-resistant,” and they can lead to severe infections, hospitalizations, and death—especially among people over 65.

The CDC has marked this week as Get Smart About Antibiotics Week. Here are 3 things you can do to make sure you’re using antibiotics the right way:

  1. Take antibiotics only to treat bacterial infections. It should be for only as long as your doctor prescribed to treat the infection, to reduce your risk of getting the infection again, or to reduce the risk to those around you.
  2. Always talk to your doctor before taking an antibiotic to be sure it will treat the infection you have.
  3. Never take antibiotics for a viral infection, like a cold, cough, or flu. Antibiotics won’t cure your virus, they won’t keep those around you from getting sick, and they won’t help you feel better. In fact, taking antibiotics when you have a virus may do you more harm than good, because you increase your risk of getting an antibiotic-resistant infection later.

Antibiotics won’t help you recover from the flu, but you can keep yourself from catching the major flu viruses in the first place by getting your flu shot! It’s free for people with Medicare, once per flu season when given by doctors or other health care providers (like senior centers and pharmacies) that take Medicare.

“Get smart” today. Learn when antibiotics can work for you!

Saving money on health costs: get Extra Help

Have you ever found yourself skipping a day of your medication or cutting your pills in half to make your supply last a little longer? Or, have you put off filling a prescription because you’re having trouble making ends meet? If so, we can help. Medicare has a special program called “Extra Help.”

If you have limited income and resources, you can sign up to get help paying things like monthly premiums, annual deductibles, and prescription copayments in your Medicare drug plan. Drug costs in 2016 for most people who qualify will be no more than $2.95 for each generic drug and $7.40 for each brand-name drug. The 2017 drug cost amounts aren’t available yet. Check back early next year for the new amounts.

Even if you’re not sure you’d qualify, it’s worth filling out an application to see. Many people with Medicare may be eligible for the Extra Help program but don’t even know it. Are you or a family member one of them?

It’s easy and free to apply for Extra Help. Here’s how:

Don’t wait – apply today to see if you qualify for some extra help with your health costs.

Diabetes—Could you be at risk?

Millions of Americans have or are at risk for diabetes, one of the leading causes of death in the United States. The disease can lead to kidney failure, amputations, and blindness. November is American Diabetes Month, the perfect time for you to find out if you’re at risk and learn about the benefits Medicare covers if you have diabetes.

Many people with diabetes don’t know that they have it—fortunately, Medicare covers screening tests so you can find out if you do. If you’re at high risk for developing diabetes, Medicare covers up to 2 fasting blood glucose (blood sugar) tests each year. If your doctor accepts assignment, you pay nothing for these tests. You may be at high risk for diabetes if you’re obese, have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or a family history of diabetes. Talk to your doctor to find out when you should get your free screening test.

If you have diabetes, Medicare covers many of your supplies, including test strips, monitors, 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.

Medicare also offers the Everyone with Diabetes Counts (EDC) program—a program that offers self-management group sessions to some people who live in underserved and rural communities. If you’re eligible, you pay nothing to participate in the program. To find out if you’re eligible or if there’s an available class near you, contact the Quality Innovation Network – Quality Improvement Organization (QIN-QIO) in your state.

You can learn more about American Diabetes Month and how to prevent and treat this disease from the American Diabetes Association at diabetes.org.

Take steps to fight diabetes today—talk to your doctor today about screening tests and what supplies and training you may need to stay healthy.

Hospice care: Comfort and support for you and your family

It’s never easy to face the difficult decisions that come with a terminal illness, like considering whether hospice is right for you. The thought of hospice can be scary, but it’s important to learn about your options.

Medicare covers hospice care so that those who are terminally ill can spend the last moments of their lives with dignity and comfort, among loved ones. Hospice focuses on comfort or “palliative care,” not curing an illness.

Deciding you need hospice care can be a difficult choice to make, and it’s important to be informed about what hospice covers. Here are a few of the services hospice provides:

  • You can get care in your home.
  • A specially-trained team of professionals and caregivers provide care for the “whole person,” including your physical, emotional, social, and spiritual needs.
  • Services typically include physical care, counseling, drugs, equipment, and supplies for the terminal illness and related conditions.
  • Support for family caregivers.
  • Once you choose hospice care, your hospice benefit should cover everything you need.

November is National Hospice and Palliative Care Month, a good time to learn more about the care and support available to people who are terminally ill.

Breathe easy—Fight lung cancer with Medicare

More men and women in the United States die from lung cancer than any other type of cancer. Every year, more than 200,000 people are diagnosed with lung cancer. The best way to lower your chances of developing lung cancer is to quit smoking and stop using tobacco products.

If you use tobacco, Medicare Part B covers up to 8 face-to-face smoking cessation counseling visits in a 12-month period and a lung cancer screening once per year. You pay nothing for these services if your doctor accepts assignment. Watch our video to learn more about how Medicare can help you quit.

Want to learn more about how smoking affects your health or to find tips and resources to help you quit? Visit Smokefree.gov, or call the National Network of Tobacco Cessation Quitline at 1-800-QUITNOW (1-800-784-8669).

November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month. Breathe easier knowing Medicare is here to help keep you healthy.

Medicare Open Enrollment: the value of convenience

Have you ever bought milk from the convenience store just around the corner even though it’s a bit more expensive than buying it at the grocery store? Most of us have made decisions to do or not do something based on convenience.

The same is true when it comes to choosing a health plan: convenience matters. So in addition to cost, coverage, and benefits, here are some other things you may want to consider as you compare Medicare options this year:

Doctor and hospital choice

You want to be comfortable with the people you’re working with, especially when it comes to something as private as your health. Do the doctors you know accept your coverage? Where are the doctors’ offices? What are their hours? Do they often keep you waiting?

Pharmacy access

Is the pharmacy you use included in your drug plan’s network? Do they use e-prescribing? Can you get refills by mail? Remember that plan networks can change from year to year. If it’s important to you to stay with the same pharmacy, it’s worth checking to make sure they’ll still be in your plan’s network.

Travel

Maybe you travel a lot, or spend part of the year in a different state. If you do, see if your coverage will travel with you.

Quality

Ask yourself whether you’re truly satisfied with your medical care. Not all health care is created equal, and the doctors, hospitals and facilities you choose can impact your health. Look for plans with a 5‑star performance rating — the right expertise and care may help speed your recovery and improve your outcomes.

Your time is valuable — and so is your health. Only you know what mix of coverage and convenience is most important to you and your family.

We’re working hard to make sure you have choices in the way you get the Medicare benefits you’ve earned – and we want you to be comfortable. Use the Medicare Plan Finder to look at all of the health and drug plan options in your area.