An ounce of prevention equals a pound of cure. That’s why anyone who gets Medicare can now schedule a free Annual Wellness Visit stressing prevention. At this yearly appointment, you and your doctor go over your health history, discuss your health concerns, and consider preventive measures such as screenings and shots.

How Long Has This Been Going On?

Until the Affordable Health Care Act became law, Medicare paid for only a single welcome visit focused on prevention. Now, Medicare subscribers are able to schedule one such visit every year.

Doctor or Other Health Provider? You Choose

Make your appointment for this annual wellness visit with your regular doctor. Or, choose another health care professional, such as a physician’s assistant, nurse practitioner, or licensed health educator.

What Can You Expect?

You won’t get a thorough physical exam at your wellness visit. Instead, think of it as a planning or strategy session designed to keep you healthy.

Here’s what should happen:

  1. A health risk assessment, which includes considering your odds for future health problems, based on your family and personal history.

  2. You’ll be checked to record your blood pressure, vision, weight, and height.

  3. Depending on your needs, you may also get necessary medical treatment, a test such as an electrocardiogram (EKG), advice to exercise more, or a new prescription.

  4. You’ll discuss which preventive screenings, tests, and therapies you should arrange. If your doctor recommends preventive measures, Medicare will now cover many of them, including:
    • breast, cervical, and colorectal cancer screening
    • bone density measurement
    • nutrition therapy
    • counseling to quit smoking

  5. You’ll go home with a personalized health checklist.

The health risk assessment alone, including your family history, may take as long as 20 minutes to complete. So, your first wellness visit will probably be the longest.

Getting the Most Out of Your Wellness Visit

To leave more time for your questions, bring these things to your first “Welcome to Medicare” visit. You should also consider bringing them to your other annual wellness visits:

  • Your medical records, including when you got shots
  • Your family’s health history
  • A list of every medication you take, including prescription and over-the-counter drugs, vitamins and supplements.
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