medicaid_2012My, how times flies! 2012 is well underway, and if you haven’t gotten your “Medicare & You 2012” manual, it is not too late. Just call the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services at 1-800-633-4227 to get your National Medicare Handbook. It is even available in a large print version. This handbook is a great resource to new Medicare beneficiaries and to anyone helping manage care for a Medicare recipient. Like most things, Medicare benefits change. Here are some of the highlights for 2012.

• The list of preventive services continues to expand. Medicare beneficiaries have access to almost two dozen preventive services, such as mammogram, pap smear, prostate cancer test, colon cancer screening, flu vaccine, hepatitis-B vaccine, bone mass density test, smoking cessation support, nutritional counseling, blood pressure, body mass index, depression screening, alcohol use assessment, sexually transmitted infection testing, and an annual wellness visit.

• Your physician may be using EHRs, or Electronic Health Records, to store and share your health care information. This is a safe and confidential system that allows other EHR providers to share information about your health history, treatments, etc. It lowers the chances of medical errors, helps reduce duplicate or unnecessary testing, and has the potential to improve the quality of care you receive.

• Check out Medicare’s new “Blue Button” feature at Not only can you access Medicare claims information, you can also enter your own information about your emergency contacts, other health care providers, all your medical conditions, known allergies, and a list of your medications. This is another consumer-empowering tool for coordinating your own care and being sure all the providers treating you have access to the same updated information.

• Watch for Medicare providers who earn Medicare’s highest quality “5-Star Rating.” There aren’t any in our area yet, but they are coming. Beneficiaries will be allowed to switch to a 5-star Advantage Plan (HMO or PPO) or a 5-star Part D Prescription Drug Plan any time during the year rather than having to wait until the traditional enrollment period late in the year.

Please contact Elder Law of East Tennessee at 865-591-2410 if you or those you may be caring for need assistance with sorting through Medicare coverage issues.