This Valentine’s Day, show your heart some love

Although popular love songs might tell you otherwise, a broken heart can’t kill you—but heart disease can. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States for both men and women, taking more than 600,000 lives each year.

You might not be able to avoid Cupid’s arrow, but you can take steps to lower your risks and prevent heart disease. Start by scheduling an appointment with your doctor to discuss whether you’re at risk for heart disease.

Medicare covers a cardiovascular disease screening at no cost to you every 5 years. The screening includes tests to help detect heart disease early and measures cholesterol, blood fat (lipids), and triglyceride levels.

If you and your doctor discover that you’re at risk for a heart attack or stroke, there are steps you can take to help prevent these conditions. You might be able to make lifestyle changes (like changing your diet and increasing your activity level or exercising more often) to lower your cholesterol and stay healthy.

February is American Heart month, so start it off right by visiting the Million Hearts® Healthy Eating & Lifestyle Resource Center. Million Hearts is a national initiative to prevent 1 million heart attacks and strokes by 2017. The resource center was developed in partnership with EatingWell magazine, and features lower sodium, heart-healthy recipes and family-friendly meal plans to help manage sodium intake, a major contributor to high blood pressure and heart disease. All the recipes include nutritional facts and average cost per serving information. Use the search and filter options to quickly find the right meal for yourself and your family based on prep time, cuisine, course, number of servings, and your health needs.

Choosing a home health agency keeps getting easier

Choosing a provider of home health services can be overwhelming. Home health agencies can differ in the safety and quality of care they provide. That’s why we’ve made it easier to use the information on our Home Health Compare site by adding patient experience of care star ratings. Known as Home Health Care Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HHCAHPS) Survey star ratings, these ratings summarize, in a consumer-friendly format, patients’ experiences with different home health agencies.

Compare websites are a valuable source of information about the quality of health care furnished by providers and facilities. Previously, you could select multiple agencies at a time on Home Health Compare to compare agency performance on individual HHCAHPS items, like how often the home health team delivered care in a professional way. You could also access summary Quality of Patient Care star ratings for each agency. With today’s addition of the HHCAHPS Survey star ratings, now you can compare summarized, easy-to-understand information on patients’ experiences with these agencies by viewing the following HHCAHPS Survey star ratings:

  1. Care of patients
  2. Communication between providers and patients
  3. Specific care issues
  4. Overall rating of care provided by the Home Health Agency
  5. Survey summary star rating

The HHCAHPS Survey Star Ratings report patients’ experiences of care ranging from 1 star to 5 stars using data from patients (or the family or friends of patients) that have been treated by the agency. Out of over 11, 000 agencies with data on Home Health Compare, you’ll find more than 6,000 agencies with patient survey star ratings data.

Sharing patients’ experience of care through star ratings is just one example of how we’re committed to helping you make health care decisions based upon available information. Learn more about the HHCAHPS Survey.

Detect cervical cancer early – get screened

All women are at risk for cervical cancer, but did you know it occurs most often in women over 30? About 12,000 women in the United States are diagnosed with cervical cancer every year. Fortunately, it’s one of the easiest female cancers to prevent. Medicare covers 2 types of screening tests – the Pap smear and human papilloma virus (HPV) test – that can help prevent cervical cancer, or find it early when treatment can work best.

January is Cervical Health Awareness Month. Watch our Cervical Health Awareness Month video and visit our cervical & vaginal cancer screenings page to learn what these tests do and how often they’re covered.

Also, visit the National Cervical Cancer Coalition website to find ways you can raise awareness about cervical cancer and how you can make a difference.

Prevent vision loss from glaucoma

How much are you at risk for getting glaucoma? Glaucoma is an eye disease that causes loss of vision—usually side vision—by damaging the optic nerve, which sends information from your eyes to your brain.

Fortunately, you can prevent vision loss by finding and treating problems early. Medicare covers a glaucoma test once every 12 months for people at high risk for glaucoma, including people who answer “yes” to one or more of these questions:

  • Do you have diabetes or a family history of glaucoma?
  • Are you African American and 50 or older?
  • Are you Hispanic American and 65 or older?

January is National Glaucoma Awareness Month. The start of a new year is the perfect time to schedule a regular eye exam to check for glaucoma.

Visit to find more information on Medicare’s glaucoma screening coverage, or watch our glaucoma awareness video. Also, visit the Prevent Blindness website to see how you can join the ongoing fight against vision loss.

Choosing a health care professional just got easier

Are you the kind of shopper who gathers information before making a purchase? Wouldn’t it be helpful to have the same kind of reliable information when choosing a health care professional?

Choosing a health care professional can be overwhelming. Physicians and facilities differ in the quality of care they provide. That’s why we’ve made it easier to use the information on our Physician Compare site by adding quality measures for group practices and, for the first time, individual health care professionals.

Compare websites are a valuable source of information about the quality of health care professionals and facilities. The new quality measures added to Physician Compare focus on the quality of care provided by Medicare physicians and other health care professionals, and include information like:

  • How well a group practice or individual health care professional provides some types of care to people with Medicare
  • Patients’ experiences with some physician group practices

Physician Compare includes a performance score for each measure, which is shown as stars and a percent. Each star represents 20%. The stars show how each group practice or individual health care professional performs on things like:

  • Getting flu or pneumonia shots
  • Screening for conditions like unhealthy weight, depression, high blood pressure, breast cancer, or colon or rectum cancer
  • Getting timely care, appointments, and information
  • Comparing new and old prescription medications
  • Communicating about your health care

The stars convey quality, so more stars are better. While the stars on Physician Compare aren’t used to rate or rank one group or individual health care professional compared to another, you can use the stars to evaluate the quality of care based on the measures that are important to you.

Physician Compare is designed to help you make informed health care decisions. We plan to continue to increase the number of quality measures on Physician Compare and include more tools to help you best understand and use this information. In 2017, we’re adding a 5-star quality rating based on a benchmark for each measure. This will allow you to more easily compare performance between groups and between individual health care professionals.

Get your free flu shot

Flu season is in full swing, so protect yourself and your loved ones by getting your free flu shot.

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 you get it by doctors or other health care providers (like senior centers and pharmacies) that take Medicare.

National Influenza Vaccination Week (NIVW) is December 6–12. Celebrate by getting your free flu shot today.

Support World AIDS Day: Wear your red ribbon

About 50,000 people in the U.S. get HIV each year. Of the 1.1 million people currently living with HIV in the U.S., 1 in 8 don’t even know they have it. December 1 is World AIDS Day and the 2015 theme is “The Time to Act Is Now.”

HIV is the virus that can lead to Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome, or AIDS. Early testing and diagnosis play key roles in reducing the spread of the disease, extending life expectancy, and cutting costs of care. At least 1 in 3 people in the U.S. who test positive for HIV is tested too late to get the full advantage of treatment. However, thanks to better treatments, many people with HIV and AIDS in the U.S. are living longer. Testing is an important first step in getting HIV-infected people the medical care and support they need to improve their health and help them maintain safer behaviors.

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 (like gay and bisexual men, injection drug users, or people with multiple sexual partners).

Visit to learn more about World AIDS Day and to learn more about their Act Against AIDS campaign.

To find an HIV test site, visit or text your zip code to “KNOWIT” (566948).