Stop the flu before it starts

Fall is here, which means pumpkins, falling leaves, and the flu! Getting your free flu shot is the best way to protect yourself and loved ones this season.

Get your flu shot early and stay healthy! Flu viruses change from year to year, so it’s important to get a flu shot each flu season. It’s free for people with Medicare, once per flu season when it’s given by doctors or other health care providers (like senior centers and pharmacies) that take Medicare. Learn more about the flu and find a flu vaccine location near you at Flu.gov.

Get your free flu shot today!

Medicare Open Enrollment is coming soon—add it to your fall checklist

Just like the changing leaves, did you know that the fall also brings your chance to make changes to your Medicare coverage? Medicare Open Enrollment is October 15–December 7. It’s your chance to review your health care coverage and see if you need to make any changes for next year. Or, you may decide you’re happy with the plan you have now. If that’s the case, and the plan is still being offered next year, you don’t need to do anything.

Over the next few months, look aroundyou’ll find information about your Medicare benefits in these everyday places:

  • In the mail

Look through your mail carefullyyou may get important notices from your current plan, Medicare, or Social Security about changes to your coverage or any Extra Help you may get paying for prescription drugs.

Also, look for your new “Medicare & You” handbook. It has information about all of the Medicare plans in your area.

You’ll also start to see brochures from companies that offer Medicare health and drug plans. You may decide that a Medicare health plan is right for you. Just remember, be smart about protecting your personal information and your identityplans aren’t allowed to call or come to your home without an invitation from you.

  • On your computer

Comparing your plan choices is important. Our Medicare Plan Finder is ready with all of the 2018 health and drug plan cost information to make it as easy as possible. Enter the drugs you take to find out how you can lower your costs and review the plan’s ratings to compare plan quality. If you find a plan that meets your needs, you’ll be able to join the plan online starting October 15. If you haven’t used the Plan Finder before, check out our video to help you get started.

  • In your community

You may find a local eventsomewhere right around the corner, with health insurance counselors to help you, like your State Health Insurance Assistance Program. Don’t miss the chance to get personalized help if you need it!

Have you gotten your yearly mammogram?

Over 220,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer each year, making it one of the most common cancers in women. Getting a yearly mammogram is the best way to find breast cancer early.

Mammograms are breast cancer screenings that can detect a lump up to 3 years before you or your doctor can feel it. This helps to detect breast cancer early, when it’s most treatable. All women between the ages of 50–74 should have a mammogram every 2 years—and Medicare covers mammograms at no cost if your doctor accepts assignment. Talk to your doctor about the benefits and risks and to schedule your next screening.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month—help fight breast cancer and get your yearly mammogram!

Go paperless—get your “Medicare & You” electronically!

Did you know that instead of getting a paper copy of your “Medicare & You” handbook every fall, you can sign up to get it electronically? You’ll not only be helping the environment, but you’ll be saving tax dollars too.

The eHandbook is the online version of your trusted “Medicare & You” handbook and has all the same information as your paper copy. The difference is that it’s updated throughout the year so you’ll always be looking at the most up-to-date information. It’s also searchable, so you can find the information you need quickly and easily.

To sign up for the electronic version of the “Medicare & You” handbook, visit Medicare.gov/gopaperless and follow 3 simple steps:

  1. Enter your Medicare information.
  2. Confirm that you no longer want your paper copy of “Medicare & You” and only want the electronic version.
  3. Each year, we’ll send you an email including a link to the new online Medicare & You. It’s instant, current, and convenient. You’ll no longer get a paper copy.

Help the environment and enjoy finding your Medicare information faster. Go paperless today!

Spot the signs of ovarian cancer

Each year, about 22,000 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” visit, bone mass measurement, cervical cancer screenings, mammograms, 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.

Protect your Medicare by protecting your Medicare number

Are you a bargain hunter? Always looking for the best deal or ready for the next best thing? If someone offered you a state-of-the-art arthritis kit and said Medicare would cover it, would you be interested? There are lots of benefits that come with aging, and discounts are one of them. But discounts and deals that sound too good to be true are one way that fraudsters may try to steal your identity.

When someone steals or unlawfully uses personal information like your Social Security number or your Medicare number, it’s called identity theft. The number of identity theft victims age 65 or older increased from 2.1 million in 2012 to 2.6 million in 2014. In fact, thieves consider your Medicare number and other protected health information more valuable than credit card information because people can reuse them to bill Medicare for services that you didn’t get. When people steal your identity and bill Medicare for items or services you didn’t get, it drives up costs for everyone.

At Medicare, we’re fighting health care fraud, waste, and abuse every day. An important part of that is preventing identity theft. Right now, your Medicare number is based on a Social Security number—yours or someone else’s. Starting in April 2018, we’re replacing the Social Security-based Medicare number with a new Medicare number, and will mail you a new Medicare card with your new number. You don’t have to do anything to get your new card and new number. And we’ll NEVER call you and ask for personal information for you to get your new card.

Remember, the first and best line of defense against fraud is you. You can help fight Medicare fraud in 2 simple steps:

  • Protect your Medicare number—treat it like you treat your credit card number.
  • Check your Medicare statement for errors, like equipment or services you never got.

Learn more about how you can fight Medicare fraud. And find out how to spot, report, and stop fraud, and protect yourself from identity theft with help from the Senior Medicare Patrol.

Finding a hospice provider just got easier

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is working diligently to make healthcare quality information more transparent and understandable for consumers in all stages of life to empower them to take ownership of their healthcare choices. This includes decisions about end-of-life care, when consumers in a time of vulnerability need transparent, digestible information to make the best choice for their care or the care of their loved ones.

We at CMS understand that there are many difficult decisions that come with a terminal illness—including deciding if hospice is right for you and which hospice to choose—which is why we have launched Hospice Compare. This new website will help empower you by allowing you to easily and quickly compare hospice providers on various aspects of care and assess the quality of care that potential hospices provide.

Hospice Compare provides information on hospices across the nation and allows patients, family members, caregivers, and healthcare providers to compare hospice providers based on some key quality metrics, like what percentage of a hospice provider’s patients were screened for pain or difficult or uncomfortable breathing and if their patients’ preferences are being met. Specifically, the quality measures look at the percentages of patients who received recommended treatment, for example:

  • Patients or caregivers who were invited to discuss treatment preferences, like hospitalization and resuscitation, at the beginning of hospice care;
  • Patients or caregivers who were invited to discuss beliefs and values at the beginning of hospice care;
  • Patients who were checked for pain at the beginning of hospice care;
  • Patients who received a timely and thorough pain assessment when pain was identified as a problem;
  • Patients who were checked for shortness of breath at the beginning of hospice care;
  • Patients who got timely treatment for shortness of breath; and
  • Patients taking opioid pain medication who were offered care for constipation.

The information on Hospice Compare can be used along with other information you gather about hospice providers in your area. In addition to reviewing the information on Hospice Compare, you’re encouraged to talk to your doctor, social worker, other healthcare providers, and other community resources when choosing the best hospice for care for you or your loved one.

In addition to Hospice Compare, Medicare also offers a number of other websites that can help you select providers and facilities to meet a wide range of care needs, including Inpatient Rehabilitation Facility Compare; Long-Term Care Hospital Compare; Hospital Compare; Physician Compare; Nursing Home Compare; Medicare Plan Finder; Dialysis Compare; and Home Health Compare.