Preventive care Your Health & Wellness

Take advantage of Medicare’s annual wellness visit

Written by Diane Archer

Take advantage of Medicare’s annual wellness visit. It covers a series of preventive care services to detect health risks and is also a time for people to discuss their end-of-life wishes with their doctors.  It should help you and the people you love stay healthy and out of the hospital.  

The annual wellness visit is different from a physical in that it is intended for the doctor to understand your medical history and current health risks, although the doctor will check your weight, vision and blood pressure. The doctor will do a screening for depression as well as for cognitive impairment, check to make sure you’ve had all necessary vaccines and other preventive care services, and speak with you about your safety at home. And, the doctor will assess your ability to bathe, feed and dress yourself.  

If appropriate, the doctor might recommend nutrition counseling, smoking cessation counseling, weight-loss counseling, all of which Medicare cover.

Only about one in six people with Medicare are using this benefit, according to a recent study. Many don’t know about it. Medicare coverage for an annual wellness visit was included in the Affordable Care Act and began in 2011.

To ensure that you have no out-of-pocket costs:   

  • If you are enrolled in traditional Medicare, the visit is covered in full so long as you see a doctor who takes assignment 
  • If you are enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan, the visit is covered in full so long as you see an in-network doctor

But, keep in mind that if you ask the doctor to treat a specific condition during your visit, the doctor can charge separately for that care. 

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