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The secret to sticking to your resolutions just may lie in your Medicare benefits

(BPT) – Despite our best intentions, 80 percent of us have given up on our New Year’s resolutions by mid-February. Determined to make this year different? If you’re enrolled in Medicare, you might be surprised to learn that your benefits could give you an edge in your quest to stay motivated and on track to attaining your goals for the year ahead.

Read on to learn how maximizing your Medicare benefits could help you achieve some of the most common New Year’s resolutions.

Resolution No. 1: Lose weight and get fit.

Exercise is a key part of the equation if you want to finally get out of those elastic-waist pants and back into your jeans. Only problem is, most of us can come up with a whole host of excuses for not making exercise part of our daily routine, with the expense of a gym membership one that’s frequently cited by people living on a fixed income.

If you’re enrolled in a Medicare Advantage or Medicare supplement plan, you might not be able to use that excuse anymore. Many plans include a gym membership as part of their plan benefits, giving their members access to fitness centers in their area at either no extra cost or a discounted rate.

“Regular exercise can help you lose some weight after over-indulging during the holiday season, but it’s important all year round to help improve your well-being and maintain your independence,” said Efrem Castillo, M.D., chief medical officer for UnitedHealthcare Medicare & Retirement. “Taking advantage of your plan’s fitness benefits could have you well on your way to a trimmer and more energized you by spring.”

Resolution No. 2: Make 2018 your healthiest year yet.

Medicare is designed to make it as affordable as possible to get the preventive care you need. And that can make a huge difference to your health and well-being by catching health issues early, when they’re usually easier to treat.

Original Medicare (Parts A and B) covers an annual wellness visit as well as some preventive screenings, such as mammograms and colonoscopies. Your annual wellness visit is a good opportunity to sit down with your doctor and develop a plan to help you achieve your best health in the year ahead. In addition to services covered under Original Medicare, many Medicare Advantage plans provide additional benefits, such as a full annual physical as well as dental, hearing and vision coverage.

Resolution No. 3: Save more money/Get out of debt.

All those gifts you bought over the holidays may have left your credit card statements extra-lengthy. And life can get expensive any time of year, particularly as our health care costs creep up as we get older. Fortunately most people can save money on health care in a variety of ways.

If you’re enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan, keep the following tips in mind:

* Take advantage of cost savings on prescription drugs. Many plans offer home delivery pharmacy benefits that can be a great way to save money — not to mention trips to the pharmacy. And if your doctor prescribes a high-cost medication, ask if a cheaper alternative is available that could work just as well, such as a generic or a drug on a lower tier of your plan’s formulary (the list of covered drugs).

* Choose doctors and hospitals that have a relationship with your plan. Staying in-network when you need care is one of the best things you can do to manage your health care costs.

* Look for extra plan discounts on everyday health care items and services such as vitamins, hearing aids and alternative medicine services like acupuncture.

Resolution No. 4: Less stress. More happiness.

More and more Medicare Advantage plans are taking a keen interest in helping their members manage their emotional well-being given the direct correlation between our mental health and our physical health. Check to see if your plan offers any resources to help members manage their stress.

Resolution No. 5: Kick the habit.

If you smoke, you know you should quit. Make 2018 your year! Medicare covers up to eight face-to-face visits per year with a doctor or other health care practitioner who can provide counseling to help you make cigarette and other tobacco use part of your past. That personalized, one-on-one attention can make a big difference. So if you’ve tried to quit on your own in the past but struggled, consider taking advantage of these free counseling sessions.

The secret to sticking to your New Year’s resolutions may just lie in your Medicare benefits. So rather than rely on sheer willpower alone, put those benefits to use to help you stay on track toward your goals. When you close out 2018 as a thinner, happier and healthier version of yourself, you’ll probably wonder why you waited so long to make Medicare your secret weapon in conquering your resolutions once and for all.

Plans are insured through UnitedHealthcare Insurance Company or one of its affiliated companies. For Medicare Advantage and Prescription Drug Plans: A Medicare Advantage organization with a Medicare contract and a Medicare-approved Part D sponsor. Enrollment in these plans depends on the plan’s contract renewal with Medicare.