Choose health, not tobacco

Are you or a loved one hooked on tobacco? Make May 31—named by the World Health Organization as World “No Tobacco” Day—your starting point to kick the habit.

Tobacco use is the second leading cause of death worldwide, responsible for 1 in every 10 adult deaths. Join the millions who’ve found a good reason to give it up. If you’re ready to quit smoking, Medicare can help.

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.

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.

Not getting quality care? We want to know.

If you don’t think you’re getting high-quality care, you have the right to file a complaint.

When you’re unhappy with the quality of your health care, it’s often useful to talk about your concerns with whoever gave you the care. But, if you don’t want to talk to that person or need more help, you can file a complaint.

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:

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

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.

You can also let us know if you disagree with a coverage or payment decision made by Medicare, your Medicare health plan, or Medicare Prescription Drug Plan by filing an appeal.

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

Know that you have the right to get quality care. Also know you have the right to complain if you don’t.

Stroke recovery—Medicare can help

Did you know that more than half a million people over the age of 65 suffer a stroke each year? If you’re recovering from a stroke and suffering major side effects, like problems with hearing or vision, paralysis, balance problems, or difficulty walking or moving around in daily life, Medicare covers rehabilitation services to help you regain your normal functions.

Medicare covers medical and rehabilitation services while you’re in a hospital or Skilled Nursing Facility (SNF). It also helps pay for medically-necessary outpatient physical and occupational therapy.

If you need rehabilitation after a stroke, visit Inpatient Rehabilitation Facility Compare to find and compare rehabilitation facilities in your ZIP code. You can compare facilities based on quality of care, like how often patients get infections or pressure ulcers.

There are certain risk factors that can increase your chances of having a recurring stroke, like smoking and drinking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and bad eating habits. Knowing your risk factors can help prevent a stroke from happening again. You can also prevent 80% of recurring strokes through lifestyle changes and medical interventions. Medicare covers these preventive services that can help you, and in most cases, you’ll pay nothing for these services:

Suffering a stroke can be scary, and for some the recovery can be life changing. Having the resources you need to take control of your health can help you with your recovery and perhaps prevent another stroke.

Look out for your new Medicare card!

Keep an eye on your mailbox—Medicare is sending new cards with new Medicare numbers to people with Medicare. Mailing has started in certain states and will continue over the next few months nationwide. Your new Medicare card will include a new number unique to you, instead of your Social Security Number. This will help to protect you against identity fraud.

If you want to know when you’ll get your new card, 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.

You can also sign in to your MyMedicare.gov account and see when Medicare mailed your new card. If you don’t have a MyMedicare.gov account yet, visit MyMedicare.gov to create one. Once your new card has mailed, you can sign in anytime to see your new Medicare Number or print a copy of your card.

Remember that mailing takes time, so you might get your card at a different time than friends or neighbors in your area.

Once you get your new Medicare card:

  • Destroy your old Medicare card. Make sure you destroy your old card so no one can get your personal information.
  • Start using your new Medicare card right away! Your doctors, other health care providers and facilities know that it’s coming, so carry it with you when you need care. Your Medicare coverage and benefits will stay the same.
  • Keep your other plan cards. If you’re in a Medicare Advantage Plan (like an HMO or PPO) or a Medicare Drug Plan, keep using that Plan ID card whenever you need care or prescriptions. However, you should carry your new Medicare card too — you may be asked to show it.
  • Protect your Medicare Number just like your credit cards. Only give your new Medicare number to doctors, pharmacists, other health care providers, your insurer, or people you trust to work with Medicare on your behalf.

Have you checked your pressure?

About 1 in 3 U.S. adults have high blood pressure—and you could be one of them. If you haven’t checked your blood pressure lately, now’s the time to take a quick and easy test. 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 help 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. Find out more about how to fight high blood pressure and get checked today!

Too old? No such thing!

You can never be too old to improve your physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing. May is Older Americans Month, and it’s the perfect time to celebrate the many ways in which older adults can make a big difference. When we come together to celebrate this year’s theme of “Engage at Every Age,” people of all ages can participate in activities that bring our communities together to learn, socialize, and celebrate!

How can you get involved? Start by striving for personal health and wellness. The best way to stay healthy is to live a healthy lifestyle, and we’re here to help! Medicare covers these services to help you get healthier and prevent disease:

Call your doctor today to set up a yearly “Wellness” visit to see if any of these services are right for you. Your doctor can also give you personalized wellness tips. Taking care of your physical and mental health will help give you energy to engage in other areas of your life.

In addition to getting and staying healthy, there are lots of activities you can do to improve your wellbeing and wellbeing of others. Here are a few ideas:

  • Talk to youth in your community who can benefit from hearing about your life experience and wisdom.
  • Invite members of your community to an event, like a meal or special program.
  • Plan a volunteering event, like gardening in your neighborhood or collecting food for those in need.

Get more great ideas on how to get involved in Older Americans Month and more information on this year’s theme of Engage at Every Age. Be sure to take a selfie (or groupie) and post the photo on social media with the hashtag #OAM18! Visit oam.acl.gov to learn more.

CMS Encourages Eligible Suppliers to Participate in Expanded Medicare Diabetes Prevention Program Model

By CMS Administrator Seema Verma

Nationally expanded performance-based payment model now enrolling service suppliers

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) in April expanded the Medicare Diabetes Prevention Program (MDPP), a national performance-based payment model offering a new approach to type 2 diabetes prevention in eligible Medicare beneficiaries with an indication of pre-diabetes. For the first time, both traditional healthcare providers and community-based organizations can enroll as Medicare suppliers of health behavior change services. This innovative model promotes patient-centered care and continues to test market-driven reforms to drive quality of care and improve outcomes for America’s seniors, more than a quarter of whom have type 2 diabetes.

CMS recognizes that prevention is a critical part of creating an affordable healthcare system that puts patients first, and we encourage eligible suppliers to partner with us on this shared goal by participating in the national expansion of the MDPP.

As the CMS Innovation Center’s first preventive services model test to expand nationally, the MDPP is a key example of how we’re putting innovation to work. The model launched in 2012 as a small, voluntary model test at 17 sites across the country in partnership with the YMCA-USA, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and other public and private partners. Now, CMS is expanding this set of services nationwide based on promising results. In the initial model test, 45 percent of beneficiaries met the 5 percent weight loss target, which translates to a clinically meaningful reduction in the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Through the MDPP, trained community health workers and other health professionals empower beneficiaries at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes to take ownership of their health through curriculum-driven coaching and proven behavior change strategies for weight control. As a new preventive service for qualifying Medicare beneficiaries, MDPP services are available without a referral or co-payment.

The MDPP is not only a good value for our beneficiaries. Investing in prevention through performance-based payments and market-based incentives, this promising model will save the Medicare program more than $180 million by keeping beneficiaries healthy and averting new cases of diabetes[i].

One of the critical innovations in the MDPP is its approach to care delivery: For the first time, community-based organizations can enroll in Medicare to provide evidence-based diabetes prevention services after achieving preliminary or full recognition through the CDC. These organizations can enroll in Medicare to become an MDPP Supplier today, and CMS will continue to accept supplier applications on a rolling basis. Eligible organizations can begin the screening and enrollment process to become an MDPP Supplier by using the Provider Enrollment Chain and Ownership System (PECOS) or submitting the paper CMS-20134 Form. For information on the steps to enrollment, please refer to the MDPP Enrollment Fact Sheet.

Diabetes exerts an unacceptable toll on our beneficiaries, their families, and the Medicare program, which spends more than $104 billion every year treating patients with this preventable disease. The Medicare Diabetes Prevention Program is leveraging innovation to bring valuable preventive services to our beneficiaries, and I urge eligible organizations across the country to enroll today in this exciting performance-based payment opportunity.

[i] Federal Register. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Medicare Program; Revisions to Payment Policies Under the Physician Fee Schedule and Other Revisions to Part B for CY 2018; Medicare Shared Savings Program Requirements; and Medicare Diabetes Prevention Program; Final Rule. November 15, 2017. [pg. 53355 – 53356] https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2017-11-15/pdf/2017-23953.pdf

Our new Privacy Manager puts privacy choices at your fingertips

Your Privacy Options screengrab

Your privacy is very important. That’s why we have important safeguards in place to protect the information you give us when you visit Medicare.gov. We’ve added a tool that lets you easily control some of the information we may collect from you.

When you visit Medicare.gov, we use common web tools to collect information—things like:

  • What websites you came from
  • What Medicare.gov pages you visit
  • How much time you spend on Medicare.gov
  • What page you’re on when you leave Medicare.gov

We use this information to help us improve Medicare.gov and our outreach to people with Medicare.

You can decide whether you want us to collect this information during your visits to Medicare.gov. Our new Privacy Manager lets you easily adjust your settings to match your comfort level.

To view or change your privacy settings, visit Medicare.gov, and select “Privacy settings” at the bottom of the page. Here’s what it looks like:

You can choose “on” or “off” for tracking certain types of information about your Medicare.gov visits, like advertising or social media. No matter what you choose, you’ll still have access to everything on Medicare.gov. But, if you choose “off,” we won’t use your visit to:

  • Improve Medicare.gov to make it more useful for visitors
  • Improve our public education and outreach through digital advertising

We’re committed to protecting your privacy. To learn more about how we protect your privacy when you visit Medicare.gov, visit our privacy policy.

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.