When you join the ranks of Medicare beneficiaries, your plan pays for most medical care when you get sick. Did you realize, though, that Medicare also pays for wellness visits that keep you healthy? “In fact, Medicare covers a wide range of services that both keep you well and detect diseases early, when they’re easier to treat,” notes St. Mary’s Good Samaritan Salem Family Health Center physician Mahvish Zahoor, M.D. “Working with your doctor to take advantage of these benefits can mean a longer, healthier life.”
A “wellness team” collaborates with your primary care provider. Wellness visits are intended to maintain and maximize good health. These visits are separate from—and above and beyond—a regular office visit. So if your desire is to address specific physical complaints, be sure to schedule a regular office visit. Ask your health care provider about:
• Your “Welcome to Medicare” visit—Within 12 months of joining Medicare, you can have this comprehensive preventive visit. Your primary care provider will review your medical and social history, provide basic screenings, and see what preventive services you are eligible to receive.
• Yearly wellness visits—You can get a wellness check-up every 12 months, even if you never had your welcome visit. You’ll fill out a questionnaire that gives your provider and wellness team information about your health now and your risks in the future. Together, you’ll make a plan to treat the conditions you have and prevent more problems down the line.
• Screenings for cancer and other diseases— Screenings find health problems early, before you have symptoms. Ask your wellness team which screenings you need. Medicare covers tests for several cancers, glaucoma, depression, alcohol problems, heart disease, osteoporosis, aneurysms, obesity, diabetes, HIV, and other sexually
• Shots to prevent illness—Vaccinations ward off many infectious diseases. Almost all older adults should get a yearly flu shot. Ask if you should also be immunized against pneumococcal disease or hepatitis B.
• Smoking cessation counseling—If you haven’t yet quit, you can see a doctor or mental health professional about kicking your cigarette habit.
“Most of these services will cost Medicare recipients nothing if you go to your primary care provider’s office for your Annual Wellness Visit,” explains Daniel Hoffman, M.D., an internist at St. Mary’s Good Samaritan Medical Group Primary Care in Mt. Vernon. “Others might have a small copayment or deductible. But the reward— your good health—is more than worth the cost.”
10 Questions for Your Annual Wellness Visit - Anyone who gets Medicare can schedule a free Annual Wellness Visit stressing prevention. Asking the right questions during your visit can help you get the information you really need. Many of these questions are especially important for women to help prevent health problems before they arise.
1) Do I need any vaccinations, such as the flu shot?
2) If female, when should I schedule my next mammogram to check for breast cancer?
If male, when should I have a prostate exam?
3) When should I have a bone mass measurement to see if my osteoporosis risk has changed?
4) Does my weight, diet, or any other behavior put me at risk for diabetes, heart disease, or another condition?
5) Should I be screened for high cholesterol, high blood sugar, or high blood pressure?
6) What lifestyle changes can I make to improve my health?
7) What exercises are good for me, and how much should I exercise each week?
8) How can I protect against falls?
9) What can I do if I notice changes in my hearing?
10) Should I have any other health screenings this year, such as one for depression or an eye exam for glaucoma?
From cancer screenings to smoking-cessation assistance, an array of important preventive services is available. So, if you are a Medicare recipient, your potential to stay healthy with Medicare’s Wellness coverage is even better than ever.