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About 25 percent of Americans age 65 and older have diabetes according to the CDC. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease in which your pancreas cannot produce insulin. Insulin is the hormone that regulates blood sugar. Type 2 diabetes occurs when your body becomes resistant to insulin and your blood sugar levels become too high. Only about 10 percent of diabetes cases are type 1.

Generally, diabetes can be effectively managed with proper diet, regular exercise, and medication if diagnosed early. However, uncontrolled diabetes can lead to heart disease, kidney failure, vision problems, nerve damage, infections, and other serious health complications. Fortunately, if you have Medicare, diabetes testing, treatment, and supplies can be covered.

Medicare and all its terminology can often be difficult to understand. If you are unclear about your coverage, connect with Encore Life Health to help with understanding your plan and coverage.

Medicare Part B

Medicare Part B provides coverage for doctor visits, medical services, and supplies. It pays 80 percent of approved costs after you first pay your annual deductible. Fortunately, it also covers the cost of diabetes screening through a fasting blood glucose test. If you are at high risk for diabetes – e.g., you are obese, have high blood pressure, or have abnormal cholesterol and triglyceride levels – you are typically eligible for two of these screenings each year.

If you've been diagnosed with diabetes, Part B can cover your supplies including a blood glucose testing monitor, test strips, lancet devices, and lancets. An insulin pump is considered durable medical equipment and is also covered.

Medicare Part B can also cover foot exams for poor circulation, nutrition therapy, diabetes management training, and other tests and treatments associated with diabetes. If you have questions about Medicare and diabetes management, talk to your health care provider or contact the Medicare office directly.

Medicare Part D

Medicare Part D provides prescription coverage. You can purchase it as a stand-alone drug plan or as part of your Medicare Advantage plan. Medicare Part D covers insulin, unless it's administered by an insulin pump. In that case, your insulin would be covered by your Part B coverage. Medicare Part D can also cover syringes, needles, alcohol swabs, and other medical supplies for diabetes. Depending on your plan, you may have to pay coinsurance amounts or a deductible with Part D.

If you were to be admitted to the hospital due to complications from diabetes, your stay would be covered by Medicare Part A.

Exercise and Diabetes

For those with Type 2 diabetes, regular exercise can help lower blood sugar and reduce A1C levels. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics explains that it can also improve metabolism and slow organ damage caused by diabetes. Additionally, physical activity raises your heart rate and improves circulation, getting blood to your organs and helping your body more effectively use insulin.

Whether or not you have diabetes, you should engage in 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise each week, spread over several days. The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans also recommends strength training a couple days a week.

If you lead a sedentary lifestyle, start out with walking. Take it slowly and aim to increase your distance and speed each week. One good way to track progress is to use a fitness tracker. Walking isn’t the only option when it comes to exercise, however. Dancing, hiking, biking, swimming, and many other activities can get your blood pumping. Find a type of exercise that you enjoy so that you will be more likely to stick to it. Some Medicare Advantage plans also cover gym memberships or fitness programs. Advantage plans are offered by independent insurance companies contracted with Medicare and include all the coverage of Part A and Part B, plus additional benefits. Do online research to find out if a Medicare Advantage plan may be a good choice for you.

If a senior is diagnosed with diabetes, it's often overwhelming news. However, seniors can successfully manage diabetes with a dedication to exercise and some help from Medicare.

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