The Other Side of 50

Get a flu shot, not the flu

By From page OSF2 | December 13, 2012

There’s still time to protect yourself against the flu by getting your flu vaccine before flu season hits full force. Medicare covers the flu vaccination, along with many other preventive-health services.

People with Medicare can get the flu shot at no cost to them. There’s no coinsurance, copayment or deductible.

Keep in mind that the flu shot helps prevent the flu; it doesn’t give you the flu. Getting the vaccine is the best way to avoid getting sick this flu season. Also, by protecting yourself, you’re protecting those you care about from getting the flu from you.

Who should get a flu shot? All adults, especially those 65 and older. People younger than 65 should get vaccinated if they have chronic illness, including heart disease, lung disease, diabetes, or End-Stage Renal Disease (permanent kidney failure).

Here are some tips to follow during flu season:

  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, and throw the tissue in the trash after you use it. If you don’t have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve or elbow, not your hands.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hand cleaners also work.
  • Don’t touch your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread this way.
  • Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
  • Stay home if you’re sick. Wait at least 24 hours after you no longer have a fever (100° Fahrenheit or 37.8° Celsius) or signs of a fever without using a fever-reducing medicine.

In addition to flu shots, Medicare also covers vaccinations for pneumonia and hepatitis B (if you’re at medium to high risk for hepatitis B).

While we’re on the subject, don’t overlook other Medicare-covered preventive services such as cancer screenings (mammogram, colorectal, prostate) and cardiovascular screenings.

Each of these services is critical to your overall health and can help you prevent diseases or detect them early, when treatment works best. Check with your doctor or other health care provider to see if you might need other vaccines, in addition to the flu vaccine.

For more information, visit medicare.gov/share-the-health or call 800-MEDICARE (800-633-4227). TTY users should call 877-486-2048. You can also visit www.flu.gov for specific information about the flu. More information is available at www.healthcare.gov.

(If you have or know of a child 6 months or older who qualifies for Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program, the child may qualify for a flu vaccination at no cost. Check with your state Medicaid office.)

David Sayen is Medicare’s regional administrator for Arizona, California, Hawaii and Nevada. You can always get answers to your Medicare questions by calling 800-MEDICARE (800-633-4227).

David Sayen


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