Medicare Annual Wellness Visit
July 12, 2018
What is a Medicare Wellness Visit and why should I get one?
Medicare has been providing health care coverage to seniors and people with disabilities for over 50 years. In the past, Medicare only paid for care aimed at treating diseases or medical problems, with very little coverage for services focused disease prevention. However, in recent years there have been some changes, and Medicare beneficiaries now have access to a yearly visit to focus on staying healthy and avoiding preventable health problems.
This benefit is called the Annual Wellness Visit, and it is designed to allow you and your doctor to spend time talking about topics proven to make a difference in your long-term health, and to develop a personalized preventive care plan that is tailored to your individual needs.
The Medicare Wellness Visit has no cost for Medicare beneficiaries with both traditional as well as advantage plans. In addition to the visit being free, there is also full coverage for recommended screening exams, such as those for breast, colon and lung cancer for people at risk. There is also coverage for recommended immunizations, as well as counseling to help you quit smoking, lose weight, and eat better. There are no out of pocket costs such as co-pays or deductibles for these tests. The goal of these benefits is to remove barriers to care, not only to save money but to save lives.
Despite its benefits, there can be a lot of confusion associated with the Medicare Wellness Visit. Many people hear “wellness” and think “yearly physical”. However, the Medicare Wellness exam is not a yearly physical in the traditional sense. In fact, there is typically very little hands-on physical exam performed during the visit, so it does not replace a thorough head-to-toe yearly exam. Aside from that, however, the wellness visit is similar to a yearly physical because it allows your doctor to review your health records and focus on keeping you healthy in the long term and preventing disease.
Medicare has a fairly strict outline for what should be done during the visit. This includes:
- Measurements of your height, weight and blood pressure
- Review of your health history & medications
- Review of your health risks, including physical limitations and safety issues
- Screening for signs of depression or memory problems
- Update of your list of healthcare providers to allow for coordination of care
- Providing you with a personal evaluation of potential threats to your health, and making recommendations for preventive services and screenings that are appropriate for you.
It is important to know that the Medicare wellness visit is intended to focus only on preventive health care, so if you are having symptoms or need follow-up of existing health problems, those must be addressed at a separate visit. Otherwise, you may receive a charge for the portion of the visit related to addressing that issue. If your doctor orders labs or performs other services not included in the Annual Wellness Visit during your appointment, you may have a copay for those extras.
When you go in for your Medicare Wellness visit, it is helpful to bring the following items with you:
- All of the medicines you take, including prescription, non-prescription, vitamins and supplements. It is often most helpful to just put all of your original pill bottles in a bag and bring everything in.
- A list of the healthcare providers you see, including contact information if possible (including specialists and alternative medicine practitioners)
- Any forms that your doctor’s office may have sent to you ahead of the visit
- A list of questions or things that you want to discuss with your doctor (with the understanding that not everything may be able to be addressed within the scope of the Wellness Visit)
The purpose of the Annual Wellness Visit is to improve your health and help you to stay well, with a goal of keeping you independent, active and safe. Getting your recommended screening tests can help find health problems earlier, at a treatable stage, and may help to prevent certain diseases. It is important to understand what is included in a Medicare Wellness Visit, so that you can get the most out of your covered benefits. Additional information can also be found at Medicare.gov and 1-800-Medicare. If you have questions, please contact your provider.
Contact Nonda Beaudy, Care Coordinator at 906-341-3200 ext 1815 to schedule your appointment.