Are You Taking Advantage of Medicare’s Preventive Benefit?

Related topics: Health & Wellness, Legal & Financial

Medicare now covers a wide range of preventive services, but according to the U.S. Administration on Aging, millions of Americans are failing to take advantage of these proven clinical services that can improve their own health, and help control healthcare costs nationwide.

Senior man consulting with doctor


"We know prevention is critical to healthy living and independence," said Kathy Greenlee, assistant secretary for aging at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. "It is important that we continue our efforts at the community level to reach all older Americans. We want to ensure that they are aware of the preventive benefits which are available to them, including those made possible by the Affordable Care Act."

Seniors who are on Original Medicare can now get a yearly wellness exam and most preventive services for free. (If you have a Medicare Advantage plan, check with your provider about coverage.) Preventive services are exams, immunizations, lab tests, and screenings, as well as programs for health monitoring and counseling and education to help seniors take care of their own health.

Medicare preventive services include:

  • Cardiovascular screening
  • Screening for cancer (including breast, cervical, colorectal and prostate cancer)
  • Immunizations for flu, pneumococcal disease and Hepatitis B)
  • Bone mass measurements
  • Diabetes screening, supplies and self-management training
  • Medical nutrition therapy
  • Glaucoma tests
  • Tobacco cessation counseling
  • Screening for HIV
The "Welcome to Medicare" Preventive Visit

Medicare covers a one-time preventive visit within the first 12 months you have Medicare Part B. This includes a review of your medical and social history related to your health, and education and counseling about preventive services. Medicare reminds new enrollees of things they should know about the "Welcome" visit:
  1. It's free. For most people with Medicare, there is no copay or deductible to get the preventive visit.
  2. It's easy to take advantage of. Just call your doctor when you sign up for Medicare. If you don’t have a doctor, visit medicare.gov for a list of providers (click on "Facilities & Doctors" on the Medicare.gov home page.)
  3. You're eligible during the first 12 months you have Medicare. After the first year, the "Welcome to Medicare" preventive visit is no longer covered by Medicare, but you can still have a routine yearly wellness visit for free.
  4. It's comprehensive. You and your doctor will review your medical and family history, assess your current health and prescriptions, and conduct tests and screenings to establish a baseline for personalized care.
  5. It helps you take charge of your health and your Medicare from the start. Following the preventive visit, your doctor will provide you with a plan or checklist outlining additional free screenings and other preventive services that you should take.
Preventive screening isn't only good for individual seniors; it will benefit our entire healthcare system and the country's healthcare spending. According to Edward Langston, MD, a board member of the American Medical Association, "If we can help patients age 65 and older get the recommended preventive screenings and regular immunizations, we could significantly reduce unnecessary illness."

 


 

This information is taken from the Medicare.gov website. Visit Medicare.gov to learn more about the Medicare preventive benefit, and to download a free, 28-page booklet Your Guide to Medicare's Preventive Services with information about preventive services and the "Welcome to Medicare" visit.

 


 

Medicare Preventive booklet




Previous article