What You Need to Know About Bone Mineral Density Testing

Posted on Jul 12th 2018 by Florida Blue

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A bone mineral density test uses an X-ray or heel ultrasound to see how dense or thick your bones are. The test also checks to see if you are at risk for osteoporosis. When you have osteoporosis, your bones get weak and thin. It’s sometimes called a silent condition because you feel no symptoms. Without a bone mineral density test, you may not know you have osteoporosis until you break or fracture a bone.

Why You Need One

Osteoporosis can cause thin bones that can easily break. The risk for osteoporosis is common and increases with age. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, osteoporosis affects one in four women over 65 and one in 20 men over 65. Osteoporosis is more common in women after menopause due to a decrease in the hormone estrogen. Luckily, it’s easy to treat and prevent. Calcium, vitamin D, exercise and osteoporosis medications can help keep your bones strong. Look for common signs of osteoporosis such as backache, gradual loss of height and bone fractures. Although it is more common in women, it is important for everyone to be tested.

How Much Does It Cost?

A bone mineral density test is provided at no cost to you as part of your Florida Blue Medicare health plan. If your doctor suggests additional treatment or testing, you may end up with a copay or additional costs.

What Should You Expect?

No preparation is required for the bone mineral density test. You may be able to wear your clothes, but you could be asked to change into a gown provided by the clinic. The bone mineral density test is quick and painless. A low dose X-ray may be taken to check how dense or thick your bones are. The X-ray measures how much calcium and minerals are in parts of your bones. Common places that are X-rayed include the spine, hip, wrist, finger, kneecap, shin and heel. Instead of an X-ray, your provider may give you an ultrasound of your heel to measure your bone density. The more minerals you have, the better. If you have more minerals, then you have stronger bones that you are less likely to break or facture.

Your test results should be ready within two weeks, and you will be shown two scores:

T-score: This score is used to estimate your risk for a bone fracture. The number shows the amount of bone you have compared to a young adult with a healthy bone mass. A score above  -1 is considered normal. A score between -1 and -2.5 is considered to be low bone mass. A score below -2.5 is considered to be osteoporosis.

Z-score: This number shows the amount of bone you have compared to other people in your age group who are the same sex as you. If the score is too high or too low, you may need more tests. Your doctor will tell you what is right for you.

Why You Should Get This Test

Seeing your doctor and getting preventive care is important to you. It’s important to us, too. CMS (Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services) is the government organization that oversees Medicare Advantage plans like Florida Blue. Similar to how you use stars to rate a restaurant or hotel, CMS uses a five-star quality rating system to measure the experience people with Medicare have with their health plans and health care system.

One of CMS’ most important goals is to improve the health of people with Medicare and the quality of care they receive. CMS uses a measurement system to evaluate the quality of health care you receive. One of the measures CMS looks at is the bone mineral density test. If our members who need this test get it, Florida Blue scores better. This helps us improve our Star score. If our Star score is four or above, it means we’re helping our members manage their health. It also helps us improve our benefits for our members.

Making an Appointment

If you haven’t had your Annual Wellness Visit yet this year, this is a great time to ask your doctor about any screenings you need. Your primary care doctor can help you set up the appointment or tell you who to call.

If you have had your visit, call your doctor’s office and ask for help. They can give you a referral or make contact with a specialist who performs bone mineral density testing.

We are here to help, too. Here’s what we can do for you:

  • We can help you find a primary care doctor if you don’t have one. If you are a BlueMedicare HMO member, you must have a primary care doctor to coordinate your care. You don’t have to have one if you are in PPO plan. But having a primary care doctor can help you coordinate your care and look at the total picture of your health. It’s especially important if you see multiple specialists. Your primary care doctor will be the one person who has an eye on everything to do with your health.
  • We can also help you schedule any appointments you need during a three-way call.
  • If you have trouble leaving the house, we can send care to you. Florida Blue works with vendors who provide in-home assessments at no cost to you.

Healthy Blue Rewards

Depending on your plan, you may be able to earn HealthyBlue Rewards for completing this screening. To learn more about HealthyBlue Rewards, please visit floridablue.com/healthybluerewards

Complete the bone mineral density test anytime between January 1, 2018, and December 31, 2018, to earn a reward.


Note: Plans eligible for HealthyBlue Rewards include BlueMedicare Choice (RPPO), BlueMedicare Select (PPO), BlueMedicare Complete (HMO SNP), BlueMedicare Classic (HMO), BlueMedicare Classic Plus (HMO) and BlueMedicare Premier (HMO).

BlueMedicare Preferred (HMO), BlueMedicare group retiree plan, BlueMedicare Supplement and BlueMedicare Rx (PDP) members are not eligible for HealthyBlue Rewards.








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