Avoid the Part D late enrollment penalty—keep creditable prescription drug coverage

Do you have creditable prescription drug coverage? It’s drug coverage that’s expected to pay, on average, at least as much as Medicare’s standard prescription drug coverage. It could be drug coverage you get from a current or former employer or union, or from TRICARE, the Indian Health Service, or the Department of Veterans Affairs.

If you don’t have creditable coverage, you may want to join a Medicare drug plan now to avoid the Part D late enrollment penalty, even if you don’t use a lot of prescription drugs. People who have and keep creditable prescription drug coverage, or who get Extra Help to pay for their prescriptions don’t have to pay this penalty.

How do I know if my prescription drug coverage is “creditable”?

Your drug plan must tell you each year if your drug coverage is considered creditable coverage. They may send you this information in a letter, or draw your attention to it in a newsletter or other piece of correspondence. Keep this information, because you may need it if you join a Medicare drug plan later and want to avoid the Part D late enrollment penalty. If you have creditable prescription drug coverage when you first become eligible for Medicare, generally you can keep it without paying the late enrollment penalty if you sign up for Part D later.

The cost of the late enrollment penalty depends on how long you went without Part D or creditable prescription drug coverage. In general, you’ll have to pay this penalty for as long as you have a Medicare drug plan.

Learn how the Part D late enrollment penalty is calculated and more about the ways to avoid the penalty.

Take advantage of your flu shot—more important than ever this year

Getting your flu shot will be more important than ever this year. Be sure to take action against the flu and protect yourself and your loved ones by getting a flu shot.

Medicare covers a flu shot

Flu viruses change each year, so it’s important to get a flu shot each flu season. Once per flu season, for people with Medicare you pay nothing when you get your shot from a doctor or another health care provider (like senior centers and pharmacies) that accepts Medicare.

To make sure you’re safe this flu season, you should take important measures to prevent the flu, like:

  • Washing your hands
  • Covering your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze
  • Staying home when you’re sick
  • Cleaning frequently touched surfaces

Visit CDC.gov for more information on how to safely get a flu shot during the pandemic. Get your flu shot today!

Pneumonia prevention with a vaccine

Did you know that about 1 million Americans go to the hospital with pneumonia every year? Pneumonia is a lung infection caused by pneumococcal disease, which can also cause blood infections and meningitis. The bacteria that causes pneumococcal disease spreads by direct person-to-person contact. A pneumonia vaccine can help prevent pneumonia, but only 67% of adults 65 and over have ever gotten it.

Medicare Part B covers the pneumonia vaccine, which is given as 2 pneumococcal shots. You may be at a higher risk for pneumonia if you:

  • Are 65 or older
  • Have a chronic illness (like asthma, diabetes, or lung, heart, liver, or kidney disease)
  • Have a condition that weakens your immune system (like HIV, AIDS, or cancer)
  • Live in a nursing home or other long-term care facility
  • Have cochlear implants or cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) leaks
  • Smoke tobacco

Now more than ever, the CDC says it’s important for those at increased risk for these diseases to get recommended vaccines for the flu and pneumococcal disease.

Medicare helps make pneumonia prevention easy—get your pneumonia shots today.

Signs of ovarian cancer: Know how to spot symptoms early

All women are at risk for ovarian cancer, but the greatest number of ovarian cancers happen in women 60 years or older. For women in the United States, ovarian cancer causes more deaths than any other cancer of the female reproductive system, and it is the fifth leading cause of cancer death.

Ovarian cancer symptoms

Early diagnosis is the key to survival, and the key to early diagnosis is recognizing the signs of ovarian cancer:

  • Unusual vaginal bleeding or discharge
  • Bloating
  • Pelvic pain or pressure
  • Pain in the back or abdomen
  • Trouble eating or feeling full quickly
  • Urgency or frequency of urination

Ovarian cancer diagnosis

There is no simple or reliable way to screen for ovarian cancer in women who don’t have signs or symptoms. The signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer may be hard to recognize so it’s important to pay attention to your body and know what’s normal for you. If you notice any signs of ovarian cancer that last for 2 weeks or longer, talk to your doctor and ask about possible causes. Something other than cancer can cause signs, but the only way to know is to see your health care professional.

Medicare coverage for ovarian cancer screening

Medicare covers many services to address your concerns, like a yearly wellness visitbone mass measurementcervical cancer screeningsmammograms, and cardiovascular screenings. Medicare also covers other preventive services.

September is National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, a perfect time for you to learn more about this disease and know the symptoms. Visit the Centers for Disease Control for more information on signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer.

Guard your card: How to protect your Medicare card

Protect yourself by protecting your Medicare card!  

The next Medicare Open Enrollment Period (October 15 – December 7) is coming fast, which means con artists may try to steal your identity and commit Medicare fraud. Medicare has taken actions to make Medicare cards safer by replacing Social Security Numbers with more secure ID numbers. But even with those efforts, fraudsters may still try to take advantage of you during Open Enrollment. 

Medicare fraud results in higher health care costs for taxpayers just like you. That’s why it’s so important to know how to protect your Medicare card and Number.

What can you do to protect yourself and prevent Medicare fraud?

The most important thing you can do is guard your Medicare card like it’s a credit card. Don’t give your Medicare card or Number to anyone except your doctor or people you know should have it.

You can also:

  • Keep your Medicare Number to yourself. If you get a call from people promising you things if you give them your Medicare Number — don’t do it. This is a common Medicare scam.
  • Refuse any offer of money or gifts for free medical care. A common ploy of identity thieves is to say they can send you your free gift right away — they just need your Medicare Number.
  • Use a calendar to record all of your doctors’ appointments and any tests you get. When you check your Medicare statements, look out for any items and services listed and other details that don’t look correct. If you see a charge or service that you think is incorrect and you know the provider, call their office and ask about it.
  • Learn how a Medicare plan works before you join.
  • Stay alert for fraud during the coronavirus disease 2019 (or COVID-19) national emergency. Con artists like to take advantage of people when they’re distracted.

Committing Medicare fraud is illegal & you should report it

If you suspect fraud, call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227). TTY users can call 1-877-486-2048. If you’re in a Medicare Advantage Plan or Medicare drug plan, call the Medicare Drug Integrity Contractor (MEDIC) at 1-877-7SAFERX (1-877-772-3379).

Learn how to protect yourself from health care fraud. Visit Medicare.gov/fraud for more information on how to help fight Medicare fraud.

Signs of ovarian cancer: Know how to spot symptoms early

All women are at risk for ovarian cancer, but the greatest number of ovarian cancers happen in women 60 years or older. For women in the United States, ovarian cancer causes more deaths than any other cancer of the female reproductive system, and it’s the fifth leading cause of cancer death.

Ovarian cancer symptoms

Early diagnosis is the key to survival, and the key to early diagnosis is recognizing the signs of ovarian cancer:

  • Unusual vaginal bleeding or discharge
  • Bloating
  • Pelvic pain or pressure
  • Pain in the back or abdomen
  • Trouble eating or feeling full quickly
  • Urgency or frequency of urination

Ovarian cancer diagnosis

There’s no simple or reliable way to screen for ovarian cancer in women who don’t have signs or symptoms. The signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer may be hard to recognize so it’s important to pay attention to your body and know what’s normal for you. If you notice any signs of ovarian cancer that last for 2 weeks or longer, talk to your doctor and ask about possible causes. Something other than cancer can cause signs, but the only way to know is to see your health care professional.

Medicare coverage for ovarian cancer screening

Medicare covers many services to address your concerns, like a yearly wellness visitbone mass measurementcervical cancer screeningsmammograms, and cardiovascular screenings. Medicare also covers other preventive services.

September is National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, a perfect time for you to learn more about this disease and know the symptoms. Visit the Centers for Disease Control for more information on signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer.

Medicare Part B

The Social Security Administration announced a new service for people awaiting a hearing decision. In addition to telephone hearings, Social Security will offer the opportunity for an online video hearing using the Microsoft Teams platform beginning this fall. This new free service will allow applicants and their representatives to participate in the hearing from anywhere they have access to a camera-enabled smartphone, tablet, or computer. This stable and secure online platform allows the Social Security judge to see and interact with applicants and their representatives just like an in-person hearing, while maintaining privacy of the claimant’s information. Other hearing experts, such as medical or vocational experts, may participate as well.

AARP Bulletin Reveals Why We Get Sick More Often Than Previous Generations – and What to Do About It

AARP Bulletin Reveals Why We Get Sick More Often Than Previous Generations – and What to Do About It

Special Report Shows How to Block Winter Virus Attacks (including the Coronavirus), and Reveals the Factors Causing our Immune Systems to Weaken Faster than in the Past; PLUS: AARP Providing Detailed State-by-State “How to Vote” Guides for the 2020 Elections

WASHINGTON Researchers into the human immune system are discovering that a host of environmental, lifestyle and medical issues not faced by previous generations are causing our immune systems to become routinely “dysregulated,” making older adults more susceptible to infections, including the coronavirus.

The exclusive news report details how environmental toxins are contributing to our immune systems being in a constant state of attack, causing a rising number of auto-immune diseases and a weakened response when cold and flu germs enter our body.

But there’s not just hope, but easy and specific steps to reverse this “dysregulation.” The report includes a unique five-part plan to lower your risk of infections and disease this winter, including a morning-to-night guide to bolstering your immunity, a list of six things never to do again, expert tips and more.

ALSO:

For the first time in its history, AARP Bulletin is providing unique, detailed voter guides for 53 U.S. states and territories to help older voters know exactly what steps to take (and when) in their state to cast their votes safely and on time. Voters in 26 states will get their regional guide in the September issue, and AARP members in the remaining 27 states and territories will receive theirs in the October issue. All 53 voter guides are also available to the general public online.

Other stories in the September issue:

Your Money

Your COVID-19 Job Hunt: The coronavirus pandemic has changed how employers hire, what jobs they’re filing and what they’re looking for in applicants. In many ways, older job applicants have some new advantages they can leverage. Read this month’s issue for helpful job-hunting tips and to learn how drastically changed the hiring process has become.

Fraud Watch

Look Out for Customer Service Scams: After googling Amazon’s customer support phone number, a 55-year-old man from Connecticut was victimized into buying $1,000 worth of gift cards. Cases like this are on the rise with scammers now posting fake customer service numbers online and stealing people’s money over the phone. Learn AARP Fraud Watch Network’s five tips for customer service searches in this month’s Bulletin.

Your AARP

AARP Joins Forces with Wish of a Lifetime: Bertha Nunn, 87, had always dreamed of being an actress but set those dreams aside to raise a family. But with help from Wish of a Lifetime, Bertha got to fulfill her lifelong aspiration and appear in a TV commercial for Crest toothpaste, which aired last December. AARP is joining with Wish of a Lifetime, an organization started by former U.S. Olympic skier Jeremy Bloom, to help older adults like Bertha realize their lifelong dreams. Read more heartwarming stories in the September issue of the Bulletin.

# # #

About AARP

AARP is the nation’s largest nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to empowering people 50 and older to choose how they live as they age. With a nationwide presence and nearly 38 million members, AARP strengthens communities and advocates for what matters most to families: health security, financial stability and personal fulfillment. AARP also produces the nation’s largest circulation publications: AARP The Magazine and AARP Bulletin. To learn more, visit www.aarp.org or follow @AARP and @AARPadvocates on social media.

An improved way to find & compare health care providers

It’s more important than ever to be able to compare location, quality, and price information for health care providers. That’s why we’ve launched Care Compare on Medicare.gov to make it easier to find and understand information about doctors, hospitals, nursing homes, and other health care services. 

Care Compare standardizes our 8 original compare sites, giving you one place to start finding the care you need. New features let you filter on the items that are most important to you, so you can personalize your results. A clean and uniform design makes your results list easier than ever to review and compare health care providers, even on your tablet or smartphone.

What can Care Compare do for me?

With Care Compare, you can:

  • Get quality data by health care provider type. 
  • Find hospitals closest to you.
  • Find a doctor near you that accepts Medicare.
  • Compare quality ratings for local nursing homes.
  • View hospice and home health agency quality care ratings.
  • Search for dialysis facilities.
  • Get contact information for local inpatient rehabilitation centers or long-term care hospitals.

Take a look at Care Compare. Have ideas to help us make it even better? Take our survey on Medicare.gov to give us your feedback.

Modernizing the way you find and compare information about health care providers and services builds on previous eMedicare initiative efforts. To stay up-to-date on eMedicare improvements and other important news from Medicare, sign up for our email list and follow us on Facebook.