Tag Archives: Centers for Disease Control

Why older adults must understand their flu vaccine options

| Brandpoint@queenscourier.com

Photo credit: James Gathany, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

With the flu season officially here, it’s important to consider the single best way to prevent influenza (commonly known as “the flu”) – the flu vaccine. What many older adults don’t know is that the immune system weakens with age, meaning older adults are at a higher risk for flu and related complications.

More than 200,000 people in the U.S. are hospitalized each year from flu-related illness, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Adults aged 65 and older typically account for more than half (60 percent) of these hospitalizations and almost all (90 percent) flu-related deaths, the CDC reports.

To help spread the word about this serious public health issue, the National Council on Aging (NCOA) has launched the second year of Flu + You, an educational program that encourages older adults and their caregivers to learn about the seriousness of the flu, the importance of annual vaccination, and vaccine options for adults 65 and older. Actor Lee Majors, best known for his iconic television role as The Six Million Dollar Man, is joining the campaign this year as a national spokesperson. “

According to the CDC, the leading reason older adults do not get the flu vaccine is because they are unaware they need it,” says Majors. “I get the flu shot every year and encourage my peers to do the same. It’s a simple step you can take to help protect yourself from the flu.”

The flu can make existing health conditions worse, and it is especially dangerous for people with lung disease, heart disease, diabetes, kidney disease and cancer, conditions that commonly affect older adults. Nationwide, 86 percent of adults 65 years of age and older have at least one chronic health condition and approximately 66 percent of Medicare beneficiaries have two or more chronic conditions, according to the CDC. These conditions put them at increased risk of the flu and flu-related complications, which include hospitalization and even death.

“The CDC recommends an annual flu vaccine as the single best way to protect yourself from the flu, yet a third of people 65 and older still don’t get vaccinated,” says Dr. Richard Birkel, NCOA senior vice president for Healthy Aging and Director of NCOA’s Self-Management Alliance. “As NCOA continues to educate older adults about the flu and the potential severity of the illness, we hope to encourage more people to help protect themselves and their loved ones by getting an annual flu shot.”

There are now many types of flu vaccines, with several specifically indicated for certain age groups or immunization needs, including a higher dose flu vaccine, for adults 65 and older, that is designed specifically to address the age-related decline of the immune system. By improving the production of antibodies in older patients, the higher dose vaccine can provide a stronger immune response to the flu than traditional vaccines. Whichever vaccine option is selected, an annual flu shot is a Medicare Part B benefit. This means that the vaccine is covered with no copay for Medicare beneficiaries 65 and older.

Older adults and their caregivers can learn more about vaccine options and the importance of getting an annual flu vaccine on the Flu + You website, www. ncoa.org/Flu, which features free educational materials, a public service announcement with Majors, and more facts about the flu.

Flu + You is a national public education initiative from the National Council on Aging with support from Sanofi Pasteur.

-Courtesy BPT



Expert advice on keeping your health care costs down

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com


(ARA) – Health care expenditures totaled roughly 2.6 trillion dollars in 2010, more than 10 times what they were in 1980. Average families are feeling the increases – health insurance premiums for a typical family of four have increased by 114 percent since 2000, according to the Centers for Disease Control. And health care costs now make up approximately 6.6 percent of the average family’s budget.

It’s true that the health care industry is immense and sometimes seems impossible to navigate but you are not powerless. Here are 10 tips for keeping health care costs manageable:

1. Negotiate with health care providers

If you have no insurance, consider negotiating with your medical provider for a discount in the amount that insurance would have required them to write off.

2. Pay in full

Many providers offer a “paid in full” discount if you offer to pay services in full at the date of service. This saves providers time and effort following up, so it can often be in their best interest to encourage up-front payments.

3. Stay informed

The more prepared and informed you are about your options, the more likely you are to receive better care and ultimately, you may save yourself money. Specifically, this means you should do research prior to getting additional medical services. Many exams and tests are very expensive and may not be considered medically necessary.

4. Be an active and inquisitive patient

Remember that you know your body better than anyone. When visiting a provider, you should always go prepared with a list of questions and concerns. If you take the time to get answers on your first visit, you will save time and money in the long run, as you will have fewer follow-up visits and reduce the potential for misdiagnosis.

5. Know your health insurance benefits

If you have health insurance, make sure you review your explanation of benefits (EOB) when you receive them. Insurance companies make mistakes, so make sure you are reviewing your EOBs for correct information on payments made, deductibles, or denied claims. If you have any questions, call your insurance company. If you wait, then denied claims could cost you hundreds of dollars.

6. Set up a flexible spending account if offered by your employer

If your employer offers a flexible spending account (FSA) as a benefit, take advantage. An FSA is a benefit that employers can offer their employees to help them save money on medical expenses – FSAs allow you to deduct a certain amount of pre-tax income each pay period for medical payments, and thereby reduce what you pay in federal income taxes. However, it is important to estimate your anticipated medical expenses carefully because deductions placed in an FSA must be used within the calendar year, or you forfeit your right to those dollars.

7. Investigate free prescription drug programs

Do you have trouble covering the cost of your prescription drugs? Lori Snyder, pharmacy technology program chair at Everest College in Reseda, California, suggests that you write to the pharmaceutical company that manufactures your medications. They all have programs which offer prescription drugs at no cost, and you may qualify.

8. Be wary of savings schemes

Take caution when looking at “Medical Discount Plans.” Many discount plans state that they can save you up to 60 percent on medical expenses, if you go to their providers. But some of these plans are simply out for your money. Before signing up for a plan, be sure to do your research by calling the plan’s providers, and getting price quotes for their services.

9. Shop around for treatment services

You wouldn’t buy the first shirt you see in a store without trying it on and comparing prices – so why would you commit to the first medical provider you call? In seeking out medical services, call around and ask for the fee schedules of the providers you need to see. They should be able to give you a list of procedures and their costs. Then you can compare prices of different providers prior to choosing.

10. Consider switching insurance providers

Remember, not all insurance plans are created equal. Many employers offer a choice of different insurance plans. Consider reassessing your family’s medical needs on an annual basis and negotiating premiums with insurers. They all want your business.