By Greg Dill
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.
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 7 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 3 shots over a 6-month period. You need all 3 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;
- 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 (1-800-633-4227).