UCHealth: Know your Medicare and keep costs down

December 3rd, 2019

 

Two seniors take a selfie
Knowledge is power. Understanding how your Medicare benefits work is essential to good health. Photo: Getty Images.

Eligibility for Medicare coverage starts at age 65, which — not coincidentally — is the time many people begin wind down careers or retire. If you’re looking to make the most out of your senior years and keep costs down, it’s important to maintain your health.

Depending on the type of Medicare plan you select, your benefits may include free or low-cost access to screenings, annual visits, and even other preventative care services to support your overall wellness goals. You’ll be better positioned to take full advantage of your benefits if you make time to go over the details of your coverage. Need help selecting a Medicare plan? Get assistance from UCHealth’s independent insurance broker.

“From what I’ve experienced in the primary care and hospital setting, many Medicare patients don’t know what their coverage includes to help them be healthy,” says Kartik Patel, MD, a physician at UCHealth Primary Care – Quincy. “Recently, a new patient told me she had no idea that most of her preventive screenings were covered by her plan.”

The top causes of death in seniors include heart attacks, pneumonia and influenza – all diseases considered to be preventable.

“Prevention is even better than a cure,” says Deepak Kumar Honaganahalli, MD, a physician at UCHealth Primary Care – Greenwood Village. “If you can avoid developing a condition, you’re going to be better off in general because you’ll stay healthier, avoid the hospital, and won’t face additional financial burdens. And, it helps the healthcare system bring down overall all costs.”

A man writing a spinning bicycle
Staying physically fit, eating health foods and keeping preventative health appointments are key to maintaining good health. Photo: Getty Images.

Preventive health recommendations

That’s why, at the minimum, UCHealth recommends seniors schedule and receive the following preventive health services to help you stay healthy:

Annual visits

  • Wellness visit (includes health risk assessment, medical history review, medication review, height, weight, blood pressure, and other routine measurements and services)
  • Annual eye exam
  • Annual dental exam

Screenings

  • Breast cancer screening (women)
  • Colorectal cancer screening

Vaccinations

  • Influenza (flu)
  • Pneumococcal (pneumonia)
  • Shingles

“Unless you look for a problem, you may never identify it in time. That’s why you should see your provider and talk to him or her about yourself and your family history to check any risk factors – and actively search for them – for prevention and treatment, and ultimately, to avoid a premature deadly event,” Dr. Honaganahalli says.

Make sure to consult with your doctor about any other preventive services you should receive based on your health status and family history. The Medicare site has more information about coverage for preventative care/screenings.

Condition management recommendations

Fortunately, lifestyle and medication can go a long way to control many risk factors. For seniors living with certain diseases, the following health services are recommended to manage these conditions:

Type 1 or 2 diabetes – A comprehensive diabetes care plan can cover extensive areas of disease management and complication prevention strategies.

Hypertension – An appropriate medication plan can help support healthy blood pressure levels. In addition, lifestyle modifications such as a change in diet and increasing exercise can help control hypertension and help reduce or even eliminate the need for medications.

The Medicare site has more information about disease management coverage.

Keeping drug costs down

If your UCHealth provider recommends prescription medication to prevent or help manage a condition, they can determine if it is covered by your prescription drugs plan. They also can help determine if there is a generic option and how much the drug will cost before sending the order to the pharmacy.

“One size does not fit all when it comes to medication,” Dr. Patel says. “So we will identify what medication will be the most beneficial for our patients, and then we can help navigate drug costs during their visit.”

Partners in health

Drs. Honaganahalli and Patel are just two of the many UCHealth providers who offer talks on topics like prevention and disease management to help patients and community members become more educated healthcare consumers.

To find a UCHealth location or provider near you, click here.