At risk for hepatitis? Medicare can help with screenings, treatment

COMMENTARY /// Personal health

Did you know viral hepatitis, an inflammation of the liver, causes more than 1 million deaths per year worldwide? That’s about the same number of deaths caused by tuberculosis and HIV combined.

Hepatitis is contagious. The Hepatitis B virus (HBV) 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.

HBV can range from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a serious long-term illness 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 over a six-month period. You need all three shots for complete protection.

Medicare covers these shots for people at medium or high risk for HBV. Risk factors include hemophilia, end-stage renal disease, diabetes, if you live with someone with Hepatitis B or if you’re a healthcare worker and have 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 HBV shots if your doctor or other qualified healthcare provider accepts Medicare payment.

Medicare also covers a onetime

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; or 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 primary-care provider.

Here are some preventive-health measures Medicare covers: alcohol misuse screening and counseling; bone mass measurement; mammograms; cardiovascular disease screening, including blood tests that help detect conditions that may lead to a heart attack or stroke; cervical and vaginal cancer screening; colorectal cancer screening; 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; and smoking and tobacco cessation counseling.

You pay nothing for most Medicare-covered preventive services if you get the services from a doctor or qualified healthcare provider who accepts Medicare. However, for some preventive services, you may have to pay a deductible, coinsurance or both.

Dill is Medicare’s regional administrator for California and other western states. For more Medicare information, call (800) 633-4227.