Celebrate Earth Day—Think globally, act locally!

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! Medicare has several electronic resources to help you manage your health care better.

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.

Rethink drinking

As you get older, alcohol may start to effect you differently. You may become more sensitive to it, and your regular drinking habits could become a problem. Drinking too much alcohol can cause falls and fractures. Alcohol can also cause dangerous interactions when mixed with prescription or over-the-counter medications. Over a long time, it can also lead to some cancers, liver and brain damage, osteoporosis, and strokes.

Medicare covers alcohol misuse screening & counseling to provide counseling for people who misuse alcohol. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism recommends adults 65 and over who are healthy and don’t take medications have no more than 3 drinks on a given day or 7 drinks in a week.

If you think you or a loved one could be misusing alcohol, don’t be ashamed to ask for help. April is Alcohol Awareness Month, and Medicare’s here to help you stay safe and healthy.

New Medicare cards have started to mail!

Medicare has started sending new cards with new Medicare Numbers to people with Medicare. Your new Medicare card will include a new number unique to you, instead of your current Social Security-based number. This will help to protect you against fraud.

Starting this month, people who are enrolling in Medicare for the first time will be among the first in the country to get the new cards. If you have Medicare already, you’ll get your new card over the coming months. Medicare will mail cards on a rolling basis, sending a new card with a new number at no cost to everyone with Medicare over the next year. To update your official mailing address, visit your MySocialSecurity account, or call 1-800-772-1213.

If you want to know when new cards start mailing to your area, visit Medicare.gov/NewCard, and sign up to get email alerts from Medicare. We’ll send you an email when cards start mailing in your state, and we’ll also email you about other important Medicare topics. While the cards have a new look, your Medicare coverage and benefits will stay the same.

Need help with your Medicare costs?

If you have Medicare and you’re facing challenges with paying for health care, you may be eligible for programs that can help you save money on medical and drug costs.

People with limited income and resources may qualify for Medicaid—a joint federal and state program that helps with medical costs.

Even if you don’t qualify for Medicaid, these 4 Medicare Savings Programs may be able to help you pay your Medicare premiums and other 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 for 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 you may be eligible for another savings program 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.

Medicare helps you get smart about kidney disease

Did you know that 1 in 3 American adults is at risk for kidney disease? Major risk factors for kidney disease include diabetes, high blood pressure, a family history of kidney failure and being 60 or older. The best way to fight kidney disease is to find it before trouble starts. But, if you’ve already been diagnosed, Medicare is here to help you make informed decisions about your care.

If you have Stage IV chronic kidney disease that will usually require dialysis or a kidney transplant, Medicare covers up to 6 kidney disease education sessions that teach you how to take the best possible care of your kidneys. Sessions include topics like how to prevent complications of kidney disease, what to eat and drink, and what options you have if your kidneys get worse, like dialysis and kidney transplants.

If you or a loved one has advanced kidney problems requiring dialysis, often known as End-stage Renal Disease (ESRD), finding the right care can be a challenge. Dialysis centers can vary in the quality of care and services they provide, so it’s important to understand the differences in dialysis centers in your area before you decide where to go for care. If you’re already on dialysis, it’s also important to understand the quality of care that your dialysis center delivers. Medicare’s Dialysis Facility Compare lets you easily search for dialysis centers, compare them side by side, and find the right one for you. The information includes feedback from patients – you can see how dialysis patients respond to a survey that asked questions about their dialysis center, their kidney doctor, and the center’s staff.

March is National Kidney Month, so there’s no better time to get smart about kidney disease. Learn more about kidney disease, Dialysis Facility Compare, and Medicare-covered kidney services to be sure you’re making educated choices about your kidney health.

Healthy Eating Solutions – Medicare can help!

As American lifestyles have gotten busier, the demand for food that can be purchased and eaten quickly—known as fast food–has gained speed, too. With today’s hectic schedules, it can be hard to find time to prepare a healthy meal or exercise. If you need an eating and activity plan that will work for you, Medicare can help.

Medicare covers medical nutrition therapy (MNT) services for people with diabetes or kidney disease. MNT services may include an initial nutrition and lifestyle assessment, one-on-one nutrition counseling, and follow-up visits to check on your progress. Find out if you qualify for these services.

During 2007-2010, American adults consumed an average of 11% of their total daily calories from fast food. More than one-third of U.S. adults are obese, and frequently eating fast food has been shown to contribute to weight gain.

Carrying extra body weight can lead to serious health conditions like diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and some types of cancer.

If you need help getting started, MyPlate MyWins offers tips on how to make small changes to improve your diet and find healthy food choices wherever your day may take you. Also, the resources at Eat Right® can help you improve your eating style while reducing food waste.

Celebrate National Nutrition Month by making good food choices and adding regular exercise to your lifestyle. Small changes can bring good rewards.

Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 (MACRA) Funding Opportunity: Measure Development for the Quality Payment Program

CMS Blog

https://blog.cms.gov/2018/03/02/medicare-access-and-chip-reauthorization-act-of-2015-macra-funding-opportunity

March 2, 2018
By Kate Goodrich, MD
Director, CMS Center for Clinical Standards and Quality & CMS Chief Medical Officer

Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 (MACRA) Funding Opportunity:Measure Development for the Quality Payment Program

CMS is pleased to announce a new funding opportunity for the development, improvement, updating, and expansion of quality measures for use in the Quality Payment Program. CMS will be partnering directly with clinicians, patients, and other stakeholders to provide up to $30 million of funding and technical assistance in development of quality measures over three years.

Cooperative agreements provide a unique opportunity for CMS to partner with external entities, such as clinical specialty societies, clinical professional organizations, patient advocacy organizations, educational institutions, independent research organizations, and health systems, in developing, improving, updating, and expanding quality measures for the Quality Payment Program. By giving external entities needed resources to help guide their measure-development efforts though this funding opportunity, CMS can leverage the unique perspectives and expertise of these external entities, such as clinician and patient perspectives, to advance the Quality Payment Program measure portfolio. The cooperative agreements will allow CMS to collaborate with stakeholders to address essential topics such as: clinician engagement, burden minimization, consumer-informed decisions, critical measure gaps, quality measure alignment, consumer-informed decisions, clinician engagement, and efficient data collection that minimizes health care provider burden.

The priority measures developed, improved, updated or expanded under the cooperative agreements will be aligned with the CMS Quality Measure Development Plan. The CMS Quality Measure Development Plan provides a strategy for filling clinician and specialty area measure gaps and for recommendations to close these gaps in order to support the Quality Payment Program, and identifies the following initial priority areas for measure development: Clinical Care, Safety, Care Coordination, Patient and Caregiver Experience, Population Health and Prevention, and Affordable Care. The gap areas include, but not limited to: Orthopedic Surgery, Pathology, Radiology, Mental Health and substance use conditions, Oncology, Palliative Care, and Emergency Medicine.

More broadly than the CMS Quality Measure Development Plan, which is specific for the Quality Payment Program, CMS measures work is guided by the Meaningful Measurement framework which identifies the highest priorities for quality measurement and improvement. The Meaningful Measure Areas serve as the connectors between CMS goals under development and individual measures/initiatives that demonstrate how high quality outcomes for our Medicare, Medicaid, and CHIP beneficiaries are being achieved. They are concrete quality topics which reflect core issues that are most vital to high quality care and better patient outcomes.

Through these cooperative agreements, CMS aims to provide the necessary support to help external entities expand the Quality Payment Program quality measure portfolio with a focus on clinical and patient perspectives and minimizing burden for clinicians. Focusing on patient perspectives will ensure measures focus on what is important to patients and drive the improvement of patient outcomes. To accomplish this, the cooperative agreements prioritize the development of: outcome measures, including patient reported outcome and functional status measures; patient experience measures; care coordination measures; and measures of appropriate use of services, including measures of overuse.

For more information, search for the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 (MACRA) Funding Opportunity: Measure Development for the Quality Payment Program on Grants.gov or visit our website, https://www.cms.gov/Medicare/Quality-Initiatives-Patient-Assessment-Instruments/Value-Based-Programs/MACRA-MIPS-and-APMs/MACRA-MIPS-and-APMs.html.

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Get CMS news at cms.gov/newsroom, sign up for CMS news via email and follow CMS on Twitter CMS Administrator @SeemaCMS, @CMSgov, and @CMSgovPress.

5 ways to lower your risk of colon cancer

Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in the U.S. and the second leading cause of death from cancer. Colorectal cancer affects all racial and ethnic groups and is most often found in people 50 and older.

The best way to prevent colorectal cancer is to get screened regularly starting at age 50. There are often no signs or symptoms of colorectal cancer—that’s why it’s so important to get screened. You don’t have to do it alone—Medicare covers colorectal cancer screenings to help you detect and prevent colorectal cancer, and you’ll pay nothing for most of them.

March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, so this is a great time to do 5 things to stop this cancer in its tracks.

  1. Get screened
  2. Exercise
  3. Maintain a healthy weight
  4. Don’t drink too much alcohol
  5. Don’t smoke

Do what you can so you’re not one of the 140,000 Americans diagnosed with colorectal cancer every year, and let Medicare help.

Spring into action with an ounce of prevention

Spring is a season of new beginnings and growth, bringing us longer hours of daylight, sprouting tulips, and warmer weather. It’s the perfect time to renew your commitment to better health, and practice preventive care. Preventive services are valuable to your wellbeing, because they can help you keep from getting sick and find health problems early, when treatment works best. Taking advantage of them is a crucial step in maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and every little bit helps.

When you have Medicare, 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 and watch our preventive benefits video.

As the saying goes, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Start this spring by practicing preventive care, so you can you stay healthy and live longer.

Donors save lives

Each year, about 8,000 people die waiting for an organ transplant, and just one donor can save and heal up to 75 lives through organ and tissue donation. Today, there are more than 120,000 patients waiting for a lifesaving organ transplant and many more who need cornea, tissue, bone marrow, blood, and platelet donations.

There are 2 ways to become a donor:

  1. Deceased organ donors – can donate both kidneys, liver, both lungs, heart, pancreas, and intestines.
  2. Living organ donor – can donate one kidney, one lung, or a portion of the liver, pancreas, or intestines.

Over 80% of people on the transplant list need a kidney transplant, usually due to permanent kidney failure or End-Stage Renal Disease (ESRD). Medicare covers kidney transplants for both the person getting the transplant and the donor. If you’re getting the transplant, you pay 20% of the Medicare-approved amount for doctor services. You pay nothing if you’re the living donor.

National Donor Day is February 14th. Give the gift of life this Valentine’s Day, and sign up to be an organ donor.