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

By Dr. Norman K. Brown
UTU medical consultant
Hold the ketchup. Did you know that ketchup contains fructose, a processed sugar? I’ll get back to this shortly.
Many of our common diseases are aggravated by — or even caused by — the way we live, especially how we eat, how much we exercise, and if we use tobacco.
Michelle Obama repeated what her daughters’ pediatrician said: “Your girls are carrying more body fat than is truly good for them.” She is now urging an improved diet for all Americans, and good for her.
A recent medical study determined that people who eat better quality diets (less meat, and more fruits, vegetables and whole grain bread), have a lower body mass index (a measure of the waist compared to height), exercise regularly and do not smoke have a significantly lower incidence of heart disease, strokes and cancer, and live a longer life.
Medical studies document that table sugar and high-fructose sweeteners, such as are found in many processed foods, including ketchup and soft drinks, appear to play a role in triggering weight gain and the onset of diabetes as they create a continuing craving for more calories. My theory is that this is because the molecules in table sugar, and its chemical cousin, fructose, race right from your intestine to your blood stream.
Of course, we all receive a pleasant jolt of energy and optimism after eating sugar. If we burn it up in a workout quickly, then fine — our bodies won’t have so much work processing it, or turning the leftovers into fat. But the truth is most of us don’t burn up table sugar and high fructose sweeteners quickly in a workout.
Medical studies also document that if we reduce daily salt intake by one-half a teaspoon, we can reduce the incidence of strokes and heart attacks as much as restricting the intake of cholesterol (from meats) and tobacco products.
A lot of our salt, which can raise blood pressure, comes not only from the salt shaker, but also from processed foods, soft drinks including diet drinks, and restaurant meals. High blood pressure contributes to many body problems over time, as we all know.
We are surrounded by so much good tasting food, along with advertising to remind us, that we have to work very hard every day to improve the quality of our diet. It’s drudgery to improve our diets, but the result on improved health and a longer life span is good reason to eat what we need to stay healthy rather than what is fun to eat.
Yes, I hear you saying, “Okay, okay, if I do everything you are telling me, I will live to be 100, but I will be miserable.” Excellent. Now I have your attention.
Let’s make a deal: meet me half way. You become one-half perfect on this program of improving the quality of your diet, but also include some foods that are fun to eat. Strive for a life span of 85 years rather than 100. In doing so, I promise you will feel better in your mind and body on the way there. It’s not easy. I struggle every day to meet my own goals halfway.
Improving our life styles is hard work, but we can do it, and be happier for it over the long haul. I want UTU members to be in the front of this newly forming American parade, not bringing up the rear.
Please think about it. The life you save will be your own. And your loved ones will be grateful for your effort.