Tag Archives: medicare news

Protect your bones

Brittle bones could 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.

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.

Filing a complaint is easier than ever

We hope that all of your health care experiences are positive. But if they’re not, we want filing a complaint to be as easy as possible. That’s why we offer you a variety of tools to express your concerns. One of those tools is the ability to file a complaint (sometimes called a “grievance”).

Is your concern a complaint or an appeal?

A complaint is different than an appeal. A complaint is about the way your Medicare health plan, Medicare drug plan, or health provider is giving care. Examples of complaints are problems with:

Things to know before you file a complaint

If you have a complaint with your plan, each plan has specific rules you’ll need to know and follow when filing a complaint. If, after filing a complaint, your plan doesn’t address the issue, call 1-800-MEDICARE for help. For any Medicare-related complaint, you can call your State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) for free personalized help.

If you’ve contacted 1-800-MEDICARE about a Medicare-related inquiry or complaint but still need help, ask the 1-800-MEDICARE representative to send your inquiry or complaint to the Medicare Ombudsman’s Office. The Medicare Ombudsman’s Office helps make sure that your inquiry or complaint is resolved.

In addition to basic information like your name and address, have your Medicare card and health plan card (if you have one) readily available when you’re ready to file your complaint. And, in the future, you can also use Medicare’s Blue Button to help. It provides you an easy way to download your personal health information to a file on your own personal computer. Check out the Blue Button through your account on MyMedicare.gov.

Get protected from hepatitis

Did you know that hepatitis, an inflammation of the liver caused by a virus, kills nearly 1.4 million people worldwide every year?

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 in severity from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a serious illness that can lead to liver disease or liver cancer.

Medicare can help keep you protected from the most common types of hepatitis. 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). Your risk for Hepatitis B increases if you have hemophilia, End-Stage Renal Disease (ESRD), diabetes, or certain conditions that lower your resistance to infection.

Generally, Medicare Part D (prescription drug coverage) covers Hepatitis A shots when medically necessary.

There’s a third type of Hepatitis—Hepatitis C. Medicare covers a one-time Hepatitis C screening test if your primary care doctor or practitioner orders it. It also covers yearly repeat screening if 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, or
  • You were born between 1945 and 1965

You pay nothing for the Hepatitis C screening test if the doctor or other qualified health care provider accepts assignment.

May is Hepatitis Awareness month. To find out more about preventing and treating hepatitis visit the Centers for Disease Control’s Hepatitis web page and check out our video.

Have you checked your blood pressure lately?

When was the last time you checked your blood pressure? Now’s the time to take a fast (less than a minute) and simple 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. Medicare helps make checking your blood pressure 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. For more information on how you can combat high blood pressure, visit the Center for Disease Control’s high blood pressure web page and check out our video.

Older Americans Month 2016: Blaze a Trail

Did you know that by the year 2029, more than 20% of people in the U.S. will be at retirement age? Older adults are a vital part of our society. Since 1963, communities across the country have shown their gratitude by celebrating Older Americans Month each May. This year, to celebrate the Older Americans Act, we’re raising awareness about important issues facing older adults and highlighting how older Americans are advocating for themselves, their peers, and their communities.

Medicare helps older adults “Blaze a Trail” by helping them stay healthy and offering vital preventive services like mammograms, diabetes screenings, and colorectal cancer screenings. If you’ve had Part B for longer than 12 months, you can get an annual wellness visit to develop or update a personalized prevention help plan to prevent disease and disability based on your current health and risk factors.

No matter what your age is, you can stay healthy, get involved, and be a trailblazer for older Americans.

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.

Get help with your Medicare costs

If you’re among the many Americans facing financial challenges with their health care costs, there may be ways you can save money on your health care costs 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 are eligible for depending on your specific situation. To find out if you are 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.

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.

Start this spring right by practicing prevention

After months of blizzards and cold weather, spring is a welcome reminder of new beginnings – the longer hours of daylight, blooming flowers, and warmer weather are all signs of a new season, and a new reason to be proactive with your health. One simple way to manage your health is to practice preventive care. Preventive services can help prevent you from getting sick and find health problems early, when treatment works best, so taking advantage of them is a crucial step in maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

If you have Medicare, then you have access to a variety of preventive tests and screenings, most at no cost to you. If you’re new to Medicare, we cover a “Welcome to Medicare” preventive visit during your first 12 months of Part B coverage. This visit includes a review of your medical and social history related to your health and education and counseling about preventive services, including certain screenings, shots, and referrals for other care, if needed.

If you’ve had Part B for longer than 12 months, you can get a yearly wellness visit to develop or update a personalized prevention plan based on your current health and risk factors. In addition to these important wellness visits, Medicare covers screening tests for diabetes, colon cancer, breast cancer, osteoporosis, heart disease, and obesity management, just to name a few. Check out our complete list of Medicare-covered preventive services.

So as you tend to your garden this spring, make a commitment to tend to yourself too. Practice preventive care so you can you stay healthy and live longer.