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National Hispanic SMP: Delaying to File for Medicare Could Hurt Seniors Pockets

The more informed you and your loved ones are regarding your Medicare, the less likely you are to be a victim of Medicare fraud. Through the National Hispanic SMP (NHSMP), NHCOA reaches Hispanic older adults, families, and caregivers to protect, detect, and report Medicare fraud in a culturally, linguistically, and age appropriate manner.

The number 65 is a key number in Medicare terms. It is the age that a person to eligible to file for Medicare benefits. Given the economic downturn, there are increasingly more seniors who continue working past 65, some of who end up postponing filing for Medicare in fear of it hindering them.

However, it is all the contrary: failing to file for Medicare in a timely fashion will result in Part B monthly premium hikes—10% for each 12-month period that a senior could have been covered but wasn’t. The worst part is that penalty is permanent, resulting in unnecessary additional expenses at a time when every penny counts.

Seniors have a six-month window to file for Medicare, which starts three months prior to turning 65 and three month after. Those who have filed for Social Security benefits will automatically be enrolled in Medicare, but those who haven’t must enroll themselves at a local Social Security Administration office or online.

Note: Any person who turns 65 is eligible for Medicare even if (s)he can’t receive Social Security benefits.

To learn more, visit www.medicare.gov.

Pap Smears for Post Menopausal Women?

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Although one might not immediately associate cervical cancer with older women, about 20% of the diagnoses are among women 65+.

Cancer of the cervix, or cervical cancer, is the second most common type of women’s cancer worldwide, and in the U.S., Hispanic women have the highest incidence rate in the nation. However, it is also one of the most preventable and treatable types of cancer as it provides a wide margin for detection and effective treatment with minimal discomfort when detected early.

Cervical cancer has a slow progression and tends to occur during a woman’s midlife, with the bulk of diagnoses among women ages 35 to 55. Thanks to the widespread use of a screening test commonly known as the Pap smear or Pap test, the mortality rate in the United States alone has declined about 2% every year, as it can detect abnormal cell changes in the cervix or cervical cancer early when it is easy to treat successfully.

Despite that silver lining, there are still many women who have never had a Pap test or haven’t had one in the last three to five years. The CDC recommends that women should start getting Pap tests at age 21 or within 3 years of becoming sexually active, whichever comes first.

Moreover, many women might not think they need a Pap test at an older age because they are post-menopausal. However, a woman’s risk factors, age, and results from previous Pap tests may warrant continued screening even if she has already gone through menopause.

In fact, cervical cancer screenings are part of Medicare’s preventive services. Female Medicare beneficiaries are entitled to one yearly Pap test and pelvic exam if they are considered high-risk for developing cervical cancer. Those who are considered low-risk are eligible for the screening every two years. For those with private insurance, most insurers cover routine yearly Pap tests. Check with your provider to get specific information on coverage for cervical and vaginal cancer screenings.

Each year, more than 10,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer associated to HPV (Human Papillomavirus), the leading cause of this disease. HPV is a virus that at least half of sexually active people in the United States acquire in their lifetime. It also causes cervical cancer among women, especially among Blacks and Latinas, who are diagnosed later than other races and ethnicities. The lack of access to preventive screenings and follow-up may be a significant contributing factor.

However, with the introduction of an effective vaccine to protect against the strains of HPV that cause cervical cancer, the number of infected women could drastically be reduced if it is administered before becoming sexually active.

January is Cervical Health Awareness Month, so make sure you are taking control of your health. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention offers cervical cancer screenings and diagnostic services to low-income, uninsured, and underinsured women across the country though its National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program (NBCCEDP).

For more information on cervical cancer from the CDC, click here. Information can also be provided through local county or state health departments or by calling the Cancer Information Service, a program of the National Cancer Institute at 1-800-422-6237.

 

Updated January 23, 2015