COLUMN BY JOEL MEKLER: Men’s Health Month is here | Lifestyles


 Did you know that, on average, women live longer than men?

According to a Harvard health study, 57 percent of all those 65 and older are female. By age 85, 67 percent are women. The average lifespan is about five years longer for women than men in the United States.

June is Men’s Health Month. During this month, various educational and physical activities are highlighted to encourage men to take a more active role in their health.

Most of us would agree that a guy would rather do anything else than go to the doctor. We don’t like talking about our health problems to our spouses, let alone to a health care provider. Just because we don’t feel ill, doesn’t mean everything is fine.

Although Medicare now provides coverage for a wider array of preventive services than ever before, this doesn’t seem like it drives men to seek out these services. If your concerned about the cost, you shouldn’t be because most of Medicare’s preventive care services are free and the upside is these screenings can find cancer early, when treatment works best and it’s less costly.

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men, second only to lung cancer in the number of cancer deaths. Not sure whether you should get screened? You’re at a higher risk for getting prostate cancer if you’re a man 50 or older, are African-American, or have a father, brother, or son who has had a previous history of prostate cancer. if you’re a man 50 or over, Medicare covers one prostate screening a year. The screening includes a digital rectal exam  and a prostate specific antigen test. Medicare Part B covers 100 percent of the latter and 80 percent of the former. You will have to pay a 20 percent coinsurance after you’ve met the Part B annual deductible of $203 in 2021. If you have a Medicare Supplement, the coinsurance and deductible may be eliminated.

Colorectal cancer is also common among men and is the third-leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States. Medicare Part B covers four different colorectal screenings, and each one has eligibility requirements:

1. Fecal occult blood test: once a year if you’re over 50

2.Flexible sigmoidoscopy: once every four years if you’re over 50 and at high risk, or once every ten years after a colonoscopy if you’re over 50 and not at high risk.

3.Colonoscopy: once every two years if you’re at high risk, or once every ten years if you’re not at high risk (but not within 48 months of a flexible sigmoidoscopy). Note: You don’t have to be over 50 to be eligible for a colonoscopy.

4. Barium enema: once every two years if you’re over 50 and at high risk, or once every four years if you’re over 50 and not at high risk (but not within 48 months of a flexible sigmoidoscopy).

Medicare Part B pays 100 percent of the costs of a Fecal Occult Blood Test, a Flexible Sigmoidoscopy, and a Colonoscopy. Part B only covers 80 percent of the Medicare-approved amount for a Barium Enema, so you’ll have to pay a 20 percent coinsurance after you’ve met the annual B deductible. Again, if you have a Medicare Supplement, you’ll pay very little out-of-pocket. If you have a Medicare Advantage plan, it’s best to contact your plan to find out your costs for a Barium Enema.

Heart disease in the number one killer of men in the United States, even if you don’t show symptoms, you can still be at risk. Cardiovascular or heart disease screening is a blood test that checks for unhealthy levels of cholesterol, lipids, and triglycerides that can lead to things like heart attacks or strokes. With Medicare, you’re eligible for a heart disease screening every five years, even if you don’t show any signs of heart trouble. The test is free to you since Medicare Part B covers 100 percent of this cost.

Diabetes screenings can help detect, treat, and manage diabetes. Medicare covers diabetes screenings, a fasting blood glucose test, and a post glucose challenge test once a year if you have a high-risk factor such as hypertension, history of high blood sugar, high cholesterol levels, or obesity. Medicare also covers an annual diabetes screening if you meet the high-risk criteria such as being overweight, having a history of diabetes, and are 65+ or older. Medicare Part B covers 100 percent of these screenings. If you have pre-diabetes, Medicare will cover two screening tests each year.

Being vaccinated for illnesses, such as the flu, pneumonia and Hepatitis B, is an easy way to stay healthy. If you have Medicare Part B, you can get one free flu shot per flu season. Medicare Part B covers two pneumococcal shots per year that protect against different strains of the bacteria. It covers the first shot at any time and a second shot if it’s given one year (or later) after the first shot.

Medicare will cover the Hepatitis B shot if you’re at medium or high risk of developing it. You’re considered at risk if you have: End-State Renal Disease, have hemophilia, you’re a healthcare worker and have frequent contact with blood or bodily fluids, or you live with someone that has Hepatitis B or has diabetes. As long as you meet the eligibility requirements, you can receive these vaccines free — they’re covered 100 percent by Medicare.

If you are new to Medicare, you should take advantage of the Welcome to Medicare Exam within your first year of having Medicare Part B coverage. Although this visit isn’t a full-blown exam, it does establish a baseline with your physician for future exams.

During your one-time Welcome to Medicare Exam, your doctor will:

•Check your height, weight, blood pressure, body mass index and vision

•Review your medical and social history

•Check for depression or other mental health conditions

•Make sure you can function safely in your home

•Provide you with education, counseling, and referrals related to your risk factors and other health care needs

•Give you a checklist or written plan with information about other preventive services you may need.

Don’t forget to take advantage of your Annual Wellness Visit so that your doctor can create or update a personalized prevention plan for you. This plan may help prevent illness based on your current health and risk factors. Bear in mind that the Annual Wellness Visit is not a head-to-toe physical. Your Annual Wellness Visit is covered if you have been enrolled in Medicare Part B for more than 12 months and you have not received another Annual Wellness Visit in the past 12 months.

Going to the doctor may not be the highlight of your day, especially if you feel nothing’s wrong. But taking a little time here and there to make sure you’re taking full advantage of your Medicare preventive benefits is well worth it.

Joel Mekler is a certified senior adviser. Send him your Medicare questions at



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