Medicare is a big part of President Barack Obama’s plan to provide Americans with quality health care, and it’s promoting a new perk: free preventive services.
These preventive visits – called annual wellness visits – may not include a physical exam, but they can be a valuable tool in managing your health and preventing medical problems from happening. Often, the benefits far outweigh any inconvenience.
What is a wellness visit?
A wellness visit is a preventive health assessment that helps you and your doctor identify risk factors, assess current and future needs, and make recommendations for improving your health. These visits are free and cover preventive services focusing on your overall health, such as screenings for cholesterol or blood pressure, mammograms, osteoporosis tests, STDs testing and more.
These yearly check-ups also help you develop relationships with your primary care physician and create a plan to maintain good health. Your physician will talk to you about your lifestyle habits and offer advice on healthy eating, exercise and stress management.
Before your appointment, you’ll be asked to fill out a health risk assessment questionnaire. The information you provide will help your provider create a personalized healthcare plan to improve your health and reduce your medical costs.
What is covered by Medicare’s annual wellness visit?
Medicare fully covers your annual wellness visit if you have Medicare Part B for longer than a year. During your visit, you and your primary care physician create or update a personalized prevention plan that includes screenings and other preventive services.
Your doctor also reviews your medical and family history, current providers, prescriptions, and other health-related information. They will check your height, weight, blood pressure and other routine measurements, and may take bloodwork or other tests if needed.
The AWV also includes a health risk assessment and discussion of your personal and social needs. This is a great way to catch potentially serious issues before they turn into full-blown diseases.
Despite Medicare’s full coverage of these visits, fewer than 20% of eligible patients are getting them. This is partly due to confusion over what a wellness visit is and what it does not cover.
Is Medicare’s annual wellness visit mandatory?
Getting your Medicare Annual Wellness Visit is a great way to keep yourself in good health. You’ll receive personalized advice about your health and risk factors that can help prevent disability, illness or chronic disease.
You’ll also learn how to maintain healthy habits. This may include avoiding smoking and other harmful behaviors, eating right and exercise.
To prepare for your Medicare Wellness Visit, make sure you have a list of all medications and vitamins that you take. You should also keep a notepad and pen handy to write down any questions you might have.
If you are enrolled in original Medicare (Part A and Part B) or a Medicare Advantage plan, your annual wellness visit is free of deductibles and copayments if the doctor accepts assignment. You’ll also have no out-of-pocket expenses if the doctor performs additional tests or services during the appointment that aren’t covered by Medicare.
Can I get a Medicare annual wellness visit at Rush Copley Medical Group?
If you have Medicare Part B, you can receive a Medicare annual wellness visit (AWV) free of charge if you have not already received a preventive physical exam within the first 12 months of receiving your Medicare benefits. This is also called the “Welcome to Medicare” exam and can be scheduled by calling your primary care provider.
During your AWV, you and your health professional will identify your health risks and create or update a personalized prevention plan. This visit can help you avoid injury, illness and disease and stay healthy throughout your life.
During this visit, you’ll discuss your medical history, risk factors, medications and other information to better understand your current health and your overall health goals. You’ll also develop a plan for screenings and other preventive services based on your specific health needs.