Senior Lifestyles

At risk for hepatitis? Medicare can help

Viral hepatitis, an inflammation of the liver, causes more than 1 million deaths per year worldwide. That’s approximately the same number of deaths caused by tuberculosis and HIV combined.

Fortunately, Medicare can help protect you from Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C, the most common types of viral hepatitis in the United States.

Hepatitis is contagious. The Hepatitis B virus, for example, spreads through contact with the blood or other body fluids of an infected person. People also can get infected by coming in contact with a contaminated object, where the virus can live for up to seven days.

Hepatitis B can range from a mild illness lasting a few weeks (acute) to a serious long-term illness (chronic) that can lead to liver disease or liver cancer.

Medicare Part B covers Hepatitis B shots, which usually are given as a series of three inoculations over a six-month period. You need all three shots for complete protection.

Medicare covers these shots for people at medium or high risk for Hepatitis B. You pay nothing for Hepatitis B shots if your doctor or other qualified health-care provider accepts Medicare payment.

Risk factors include hemophilia, end-stage renal disease, diabetes, if you live with someone who has Hepatitis B or if you’re a health-care worker and come in frequent contact with blood or body fluids. Check with your doctor to see if you’re at medium or high risk for Hepatitis B.

Screening requirements

Medicare also 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.

Medicare also covers yearly repeat screenings for certain people at high risk.

Medicare will only cover Hepatitis C screening tests if they’re ordered by a primary- care doctor or other primary- care provider. You pay nothing for the screening test if the doctor or other qualified health-care provider accepts Medicare payment.

Preventive services

Hepatitis shots and screening are among the many preventive-health services Medicare helps pay for. These screenings and tests help detect preventable and chronic diseases early, in their most treatable stages.

Here are some other preventive-health measures Medicare covers:

• Alcohol misuse screening and counseling

• Bone mass measurement

• Breast cancer screening

• Cardiovascular disease screening

• Cervical and vaginal cancer screening

• Colorectal cancer screening

• Diabetes screening and diabetes self-management training

• Flu and pneumococcal shots

• Glaucoma tests

• HIV screening

• Lung cancer screening

• Obesity screening and counseling

• Prostate cancer screening

• Smoking and tobacco cessation counseling

You pay nothing for most Medicare-covered preventive services if you get the services from a doctor or other qualified health-care provider who accepts Medicare payment. However, for some preventive services, you may have to pay a deductible, coinsurance, or both. These costs also may apply if you get a preventive service in the same visit as a nonpreventive service.

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