January 22, 2015

Helping Seniors Understand the Medicare Wellness Visit

Senior Health & Wellness

Over the past few years, seniors have seen changes in their medicare supplemental insurance benefits. Many wellness screenings are now covered at 100% with no out-of-pocket expenses. Prescription drug coverage has been expanded to help make medications more affordable for older adults. Another benefit some seniors may still be unaware of is the yearly wellness visit.

As a part of the 2011 Affordable Care Act, older adults who receive Medicare are entitled to a yearly wellness appointment with their primary care physician. These visits are designed to give primary care physicians an opportunity to evaluate the senior’s health, assess their risk for future problems and to develop and manage a personal prevention plan. Medicare insurance recipients who have been enrolled in benefits for more than a year are eligible for a wellness visit.

The Medicare Wellness Visit is Different

One important distinction we want to be sure seniors in the Puget Sound area are aware of is that the Wellness Visit is different from the Welcome to Medicare Visit. Medicare recipients are understandably confused about the difference between these two types of primary care physician visits.

The Welcome Visit is a one-time examination that must be scheduled during the first 12 months after a senior enrolls in medicare enrollment part B. By contrast, the Medicare Wellness Visit is a yearly benefit for recipients.

During the Welcome Visit, the senior’s primary care physician will perform routine screenings and review the preventative services a patient is eligible for under Medicare. They will recommend a wellness plan and screening schedule for the senior to follow in the future.

The Medicare Yearly Wellness Visit

The yearly Wellness Visit provides the senior and the physician a time to review changes in their health condition from the prior year and make any adjustments in the plan of care.

During the first time Wellness Visit, the physician will likely evaluate:

• Weight, blood pressure and body-mass index
• Family medical history to look for genetic risk factors
• Lifestyle choices that may affect personal health
• Functional abilities and reflexes
• Potential cognitive problems
• Depression

If applicable, the physician will also conduct or help schedule routine preventative screenings such as a prostate exam, mammogram, and colonoscopy.

Learn More about Medicare’s Preventative Benefits

If you are a senior or the caregiver for one, you can learn more about the prevention benefits Medicare provides by visiting Preventive Visit & Yearly Wellness Exams.