How Can an Annual Wellness Visit Help Me Stay Healthy in 2013?Posted by Medicare Made Clear
It’s important to take your car into the repair shop if there’s something wrong with it. But it’s just as important to take it in for regular maintenance. In the same way, making sure you get regular checkups can help identify—or prevent—bigger problems later on. An Annual Wellness Visit can help you take control of your health.
When Should I Schedule It?
As the name suggests, the Medicare Annual Wellness Visit is covered on a yearly basis, whether you have Original Medicare (Part B) or are a member of a Medicare Advantage plan. In other words, you have to wait at least 12 months between wellness visits. This visit is free of charge—if you’ve had Part B for at least 12 months. And be sure you’re seeing a Medicare-recognized health care provider that accepts Medicare assignments. A quick call to your doctor’s office can help you with this.
If you’ve just joined Medicare Part B and had a “Welcome to Medicare” exam, you have to wait a full 12 months before your first Annual Wellness Visit.
Tip: To help you schedule this yearly maintenance appointment, try picking an easy-to-remember date on your calendar. Then make that the day each year when you’ll schedule your Annual Wellness Visit. For example, the Monday after your birthday or the day after Veteran’s Day.
What Can I Expect?
Just like when you take your car in for an oil change or tune up, the main focus of your Wellness Visit will be prevention. You and your doctor will talk about your current health status and measure things like your height, weight and blood pressure. You will also look at ways to improve your overall health. This may include a “prevention plan”—a plan to help prevent illness based on your specific health and risk factors. The visit may also help catch any potential health problems early, so treatment can start as soon as possible.
Remember: If you get tests or services during the same visit that aren’t considered part of the preventive services covered by Medicare, you may have to pay coinsurance and/or the Part B deductible. Here are some questions you might want to ask about any tests or screenings your doctor suggests for you before you schedule them:
- Why do I need this test?
- Will Medicare cover all or part of the cost?
- When will I get the results?
What if I Need Screenings and Other Preventive Services?
Your wellness visit can help your doctor decide what, if any, additional preventive services you might need. Be sure to know the following before you schedule your tests or services:
- Schedule – Each service or test is available on a particular schedule, for example yearly.
- Recommendation – Some screenings or services require a doctor’s recommendation.
Knowing these special circumstances can help you save time and money. And speaking of money, not all preventive services are guaranteed free of cost. So be sure to check if the services you need might have a copay or coinsurance. You can find the entire list of Medicare-covered preventive services on the Medicare.gov website (see “Resources” list below).
Note: If you are a member of a Medicare Advantage plan, you will have the same coverage as Medicare Part B. But be sure to check your plan materials to see if there are any additional preventive services that might be covered by your plan, too.
Preventive care like a yearly physical can help you improve your health and stay healthier longer. It can also help find health problems early and can even help protect you from getting certain diseases. There’s no time like the present to schedule your Medicare Wellness Visit for 2013.
For more information, contact the Medicare helpline 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227), TTY 1-877-486-2048. If you have questions about Medicare Made Clear, call 1-877-619-5582, TTY 711, 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. local time, seven days a week.
Medicare Made Clear blog post: Spring into Spring with Your Medicare Wellness Visit.
Medicare Made Clear website: Doctor Visit Preparation worksheet
Medicare.gov website: Preventive & Screening Services
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