What’s Your Hepati­tis Risk?

The Oakdale Leader - - PERSPECTIVE - GREG DILL

Did you know vi­ral hepati­tis, an in­flam­ma­tion of the liver, causes more than one mil­lion deaths per year world­wide? That’s about 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 can also 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 be­ing 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 shots over a six­month pe­riod. You need all three shots for com­plete pro­tec­tion.

Medi­care cov­ers these shots for peo­ple at medium or high risk for Hepati­tis B.

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 have fre­quent con­tact with blood or body flu­ids. Check with your doc­tor to see if you’re 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.

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.

Hepati­tis shots and screen­ing are among the many pre­ven­tive-health ser­vices that 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 (This test checks whether you’re at risk for bro­ken bones); breast can­cer screen­ing (mam­mo­grams): car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­ease screen­ing (This in­cludes blood tests that help de­tect con­di­tions that may lead to a heart at­tack or stroke); cer­vi­cal and vagi­nal can­cer screen­ing.

Also, col­orec­tal can­cer screen­ing (This helps find pre­can­cer­ous growths or can­cer early, when treat­ment is most ef­fec­tive); 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 use ces­sa­tion coun­sel­ing (to help you stop smok­ing or us­ing to­bacco prod­ucts).

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 may also ap­ply if you get a pre­ven­tive ser­vice in the same visit as a non-pre­ven­tive ser­vice.

Greg Dill is Medi­care’s re­gional ad­min­is­tra­tor for Ari­zona, Cal­i­for­nia, Hawaii, Ne­vada, and the Pa­cific Ter­ri­to­ries. You can al­ways get an­swers to your Medi­care ques­tions by call­ing 1-800-MEDI­CARE (1-800-6334227).

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