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The official blog for the U.S. Medicare program. For more information, please visit www.medicare.gov
Updated: 5 hours 13 min ago

Manage your chronic conditions with connected care

Thu, 06/29/2017 - 13:55

Wayne is in his early 70s, and has diabetes and a history of high blood pressure. He was overwhelmed trying to manage both conditions at the same time. His doctor told him that Medicare includes chronic care management services to better manage his health conditions. Now, a health care professional helps Wayne keep track of his medical history, medications, and all the doctors he sees.

Like Wayne, about two-thirds of people with Medicare have 2 or more chronic conditions. In fact, about a third of people with Medicare have 4 or more chronic conditions. If you live with 2 or more chronic conditions—like arthritis, asthma, depression, diabetes, osteoporosis and high blood pressure that have lasted, or are expected to last, at least a year—Medicare may pay for a health care provider’s help to manage those conditions.

Chronic care management may include:

  • At least 20 minutes a month of chronic care management services
  • Personalized help from a dedicated health care professional, like a doctor, nurse or physician’s assistant, who will work with you to create a care plan based on your needs and goals
  • Care coordinated between your doctor, pharmacy, specialists, testing centers, hospitals, and other services
  • Phone check-ins between visits to keep you on track
  • Emergency access to a health care professional, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
  • Expert help with setting and meeting your health goals

You may have to pay a monthly copayment for chronic care management services. If you have supplemental insurance or Medicaid, they may help pay the monthly costs.

Wayne now feels reassured knowing he can make contact with a health care professional regardless of the time of day or day of week, and has his high blood pressure and diabetes under control. Get the connected care you need—talk to your doctor or health care professional to see if you’re eligible for chronic care management, and watch our video to learn more about what’s covered. Health care professionals and community partners can learn more by visiting the Connected Care page at go.cms.gov/ccm.


Filed under: Uncategorized

Take charge, take the test for HIV

Tue, 06/27/2017 - 00:01

Did you know that 1 in 7 of the more than 1.1 million Americans living with Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) don’t know they have it?

Getting medical care, support, and maintaining safe behaviors can help improve the health and lives of people living with HIV. Medicare can help.

Medicare covers HIV screenings for people with Medicare of any age who ask for the test, pregnant women, and people at increased risk for the infection (such as gay and bisexual men, injection drug users, or people with multiple sexual partners).

HIV is the virus that can lead to Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome, or AIDS. There have been many advances in treatment, but early testing and diagnosis play key roles in reducing the spread of the disease, extending life expectancy, and cutting costs of care.

Take the test. Take charge. Visit Health & Human Services’ HIV.gov website to learn more about National HIV Testing Day, June 27, and watch our video.


Filed under: Medicare coverage, Uncategorized

Planning a summer vacation? Pack your health coverage!

Mon, 06/12/2017 - 00:01

If you’re planning a vacation abroad this summer, you already know that there’s a lot to do before you leave. There are suitcases to pack, an itinerary to plan, and perhaps a passport to renew. We want you to have the most relaxing vacation possible, so before you go don’t forget to:

  1. Look into Medicare coverage outside the United States.
  2. Think about getting additional health care coverage.

If you have Original Medicare, your health care services and supplies are covered when you’re in the U.S. (which includes Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, and the Northern Mariana Islands).

But, if you plan to travel overseas or outside the U.S. (including to Canada or Mexico), it’s important to know that in most cases, Medicare won’t pay for health care services or supplies you get outside the U.S. (except in these rare cases).

That doesn’t mean you have to travel without coverage. There are several ways you can get health coverage outside the U.S.:

  1. If you have a Medigap policy, check your policy to see if it includes coverage outside the U.S.
  2. If you get your health care from another Medicare health plan (rather than Original Medicare), check with your plan to see if they offer coverage outside the U.S.
  3. Purchase a travel insurance policy that includes health coverage.

In all 3 cases, check with your policy or plan before traveling and make sure you understand what is covered outside the U.S. For information on other foreign travel situations (like a cruise, dialysis, or prescription drugs) you can watch this video.

Taking the time to plan out your health care coverage before you travel abroad will help you to have an enjoyable and relaxing trip. For more information on how to stay healthy abroad, visit the Centers for Disease Control’s Traveler’s Health page.


Filed under: Medicare coverage, Uncategorized

Healthy men need health screenings, too

Tue, 06/06/2017 - 10:51

Have you ever put off doing something and later wished you’d just gotten it over with? If you’re a man with Medicare, now’s the time to talk with your doctor about getting screened for prostate cancercolorectal cancer, or both. Screening tests can find cancer early, when treatment works best.

Don’t put off screenings if you’re worried about the cost—if you’re a man 50 or over, Medicare covers a digital rectal exam and a prostate specific antigen (PSA) test once every 12 months. Also, Medicare covers a variety of colorectal cancer screenings—like the fecal occult blood test, flexible sigmoidoscopy, or colonoscopy—and you pay nothing for most tests.

Did you know that prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men, second only to lung cancer in the number of cancer deaths? It can affect 1 in every 11 men. You’re at a higher risk for getting prostate cancer if you’re a man 50 or older, are African-American, or have a father, brother, or son who has had prostate cancer.

Colorectal cancer is also common among men—in fact, it’s the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States among cancers that affect both men and women. If everyone 50 to 75 got screened regularly, we could avoid as many as 60% of deaths from this cancer.

In most cases, colorectal cancer develops from precancerous polyps (abnormal growths) in the colon or rectum. Fortunately, screening tests can find these polyps, so you can get them removed before they turn into cancer. If you’re 50 or older, or have a personal or family history of colorectal issues, make sure you get screened regularly for colorectal cancer.

June is Men’s Health Month, a perfect time for you (and the men in your life) to take the steps to live a safer, healthier life. Watch our video on how Medicare has you covered on colorectal cancer screenings, and visit the Men’s Health Network website on Men’s Health Month for more information.


Filed under: Medicare coverage, Uncategorized

Include tobacco in your spring cleaning!

Wed, 05/31/2017 - 00:01

This year include tobacco in your annual spring cleaning, and haul away those cigarette butts for good! Why? Because tobacco use is the second leading cause of death worldwide, responsible for 1 in every 10 adult deaths. If you or someone you love is ready, Medicare can help you quit smoking.

Medicare Part B covers up to 8 face-to-face counseling sessions in a 12-month period when you get them from a qualified doctor or other qualified health care provider. You pay nothing for these sessions if your doctor or other health care provider accepts assignment.

Bring out the trash bags and brooms—and make May 31, World “No Tobacco” Day, your day for a clean start.

Visit the Centers for Disease Control and the National Cancer Institute to learn more about how you can quit smoking. You can also watch our video to learn more about how Medicare can help you kick the smoking habit.


Filed under: Medicare coverage, Uncategorized

Not getting quality care? Let us know.

Tue, 05/23/2017 - 00:01

Did you know that if you’re unhappy with your medical care, there are ways to let us know? You have the right to get high-quality care, and if you think you haven’t, you can file a complaint. If you disagree with a coverage or payment decision made by Medicare, your Medicare health plan, or Medicare Prescription Drug Plan, you can file an appeal.

How you file a complaint depends on what or who it’s about. Each health or drug plan has its own rules for filing complaints, so check out the pages below depending on what type of complaint you have:

If you file a complaint with your plan and still need help, call 1-800-MEDICARE.

For other kinds of Medicare-related complaints, you can call your State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) for free, personalized help.

And, if you’ve contacted 1-800-MEDICARE about a Medicare complaint and still need help, ask the 1-800-MEDICARE representative to send your complaint to the Medicare Beneficiary Ombudsman. The Ombudsman staff helps make sure your complaint is resolved.

Remember, quality care is your right—if you’re not getting it, you can complain and be heard.


Filed under: Uncategorized

Stroke Awareness—Know the Signs

Tue, 05/09/2017 - 11:56

Linda was excited for her monthly appointment with her massage therapist Janine. Linda gets massage therapy to help ease chronic pain. Toward the end of her session, something strange began to happenLinda’s entire body went numb and she couldn’t move. When she tried to speak, she couldn’t. Janine saw Linda’s mouth drooping on her left side. After about 45 seconds, the symptoms disappeared.

While Linda seemed ok, Janine was concerned so she called 911. Janine wrote down everything she witnessed, including the time and how long her symptoms lasted so Linda could give it to the emergency room doctors. After many tests Linda learned that she’d had a stroke.

A stroke is a brain attack caused by blocked blood flow to the brain that can affect a person’s speech, movement, memory, and more. Some of the warning signs of a stroke include:

  • Weakness in the face, arm, or leg
  • Speech difficulty
  • Vision loss
  • Dizziness
  • Brief loss of consciousness

If you think you or a loved one is having a stroke, call 911 immediately and note the time when the first symptoms appeared.

Unfortunately, Linda’s experience isn’t uncommon, and her risk of having another stroke is higher than someone who hasn’t had one. Stroke is the fifth leading cause of death in the United States and is a major cause of serious disability for adults. About 795,000 people in the U.S. have a stroke each year. Anyone can have a stroke at any age. But certain things can increase your chances of having a stroke, like smoking and drinking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and bad eating habits.

Up to 80% of strokes may be prevented by living a healthy lifestyle and taking advantage of these Medicare preventive services:

In most cases, you’ll pay nothing for these services.

Are you new to Medicare? No worries. You can get a “Welcome to Medicare” preventive visit where your doctor will give you information about all of the free screenings and preventive services that are available to you.

Talk to your doctor about ways you can take small steps now to improve your health. For more details about Medicare’s coverage of preventive services, get a copy of “Your Guide to Medicare’s Preventive Services.”


Filed under: Uncategorized

Protect yourself from hepatitis with Medicare

Tue, 05/09/2017 - 00:01

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.


Filed under: Medicare coverage, Uncategorized

Don’t let brittle bones shatter your life

Mon, 05/01/2017 - 00:05

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.


Filed under: Medicare coverage, Uncategorized

Over 65? Age Out Loud!

Mon, 05/01/2017 - 00:03

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.


Filed under: Medicare coverage, Uncategorized

When’s the last time you checked your blood pressure?

Mon, 05/01/2017 - 00:01

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.


Filed under: Medicare coverage, Uncategorized

Celebrate Earth Day—Go Paperless!

Sat, 04/22/2017 - 00:01

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.


Filed under: Uncategorized

Get help with your Medicare costs

Mon, 04/10/2017 - 07:24

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.


Filed under: Uncategorized

Take care of all of you!

Fri, 04/07/2017 - 00:01

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!


Filed under: Medicare coverage, Uncategorized