Palmetto_rgb_webThe start of a new year is the time for resolutions. Railroad retirees covered under Medicare can receive the help they need in making some of their resolutions a reality.

According to, the top three New Year’s resolutions are:

  1. Lose Weight
  2. Volunteer
  3. Quit Smoking

The year 2015 can be a year of change with the help of Medicare’s coverage of obesity counseling.

All Medicare patients with body mass indexes (BMI) of 30 or more are eligible for counseling if performed in a primary care setting – such as in a doctor’s office. When conducted in a doctor’s office, it can be coordinated with a personalized prevention plan. The patient will pay nothing for this service as long as the primary care provider accepts Medicare assignment. Patients should also ask questions if their doctor recommends other services to be sure that Medicare covers them.

Some of the covered counseling services include one face-to-face visit each week for the first month, one face-to-face visit every other week for months two through six, and then one face-to-face visit every month for the seventh through 12th months, as long as the patient has lost at least 6.6 pounds during the first six months.

Medicare is now covering counseling in a group setting for two to 10 people when conducted by providers in the following categories:

  1. General practice
  2. Family practice
  3. Obstetrics/Gynecology
  4. Pediatric Medicine
  5. Geriatric Medicine
  6. Nurse practitioner
  7. Certified clinical nurse specialist
  8. Physician’s assistant

Medicare is also tackling number three on the list of most popular New Year’s resolutions: quitting smoking. Smoking and tobacco-use cessation counseling is a benefit which offers up to eight face-to-face visits in a 12-month period for patients who have not been diagnosed with a smoking-related illness.

The counselor must be a qualified doctor or other Medicare-approved practitioner. The following resources are available to those considering quitting smoking:

For additional resources on smoking and tobacco cessation, visit Medicare’s webpage at

If you have questions about Medicare’s coverage of obesity counseling or smoking/tobacco-use cessation, call the Railroad Medicare Beneficiary Contact Center at (800) 833-4455. Representatives are available Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. ET.

Email updates are available on Medicare’s website at To register, look for ‘email updates’ under the ‘Stay Connected’ part of the lower left-hand side of the webpage.

You may also receive updates through Twitter or Facebook called ‘My RR Medicare’ located at

The incidence of childhood obesity has more than tripled over the past 30 years, according to data developed by UnitedHealthcare.

Since 1980, the incidence of childhood obesity in children between 6 and 11 years old has jumped from 7 percent to 20 percent; and among children 12-19 years old, the incidence of obesity has ballooned from 5 percent to 18 percent.

More than one-third of children and adolescents are considered obese or overweight, according to the Mayo Clinc.  

Physicians consider a child obese if their body mass index (BMI) is at or above the 95th percentile for children of the same age and sex. This means that when compared to other children of the same age and height, 95 percent have a lower BMI.

Childhood obesity is a serious medical condition not only because of the immediate effects on a child’s health, but because of the long-term effects as well, says UnitedHealthcare.  If not controlled, children may prematurely begin to experience health issues normally faced by adults, such as cardiovascular disease and stroke, diabetes, fatty liver disease, bone and joint problems, cancer, breathing problems, mental health issues and learning and behavior disorders

UnitedHealthcare recommends that if you suspect your child to be obese to schedule an appointment with the child’s pediatrician or family doctor for an initial diagnosis.

While there may be some hormonal and genetic causes of childhood obesity, the most common cause is eating too much and exercising too little, says United Healthcare. 

In preparation for that appointment, UnitedHealthcare recommends you have with you the child’s growth measurements over time, a record of the child’s eating habits, including snacks, and physical activity, and ask in advance what other information the physician may require or preparation for any tests that may be conducted at the visit.