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Preventive care can help you stay healthy and find medical problems early. Medicare offers a number of important preventive services like yearly wellness visits, screenings, and vaccines. In 2010, the Affordable Care Act added preventive services for all Medicare beneficiaries. Before that, Medicare mainly focused on diagnosis and treatment, with few services aimed at prevention.

Medicare covers two types of yearly visits:the Welcome to Medicare preventive visit and the yearly wellness visit–also called the annual wellness visit. These preventive visits are NOT head-to-toe physicals, but they are a great opportunity to make sure you are up to date on important screenings and vaccines, to talk with your healthcare provider about your family and medical history, and to make a plan to stay as healthy as possible, for as long as possible. These visits are recommended for everyone—whether you already have a chronic condition or you are hoping to prevent one.

The Medicare preventive visits include reviewing your medical, social, and family history; discussing a preventive screening schedule based on your particular health conditions and risk factors; taking routine measurements like weight and blood pressure; discussing your risk of depression; doing a basic visual acuity screening; reviewing current opioid prescriptions and discussing risk of opioid use disorders; screening for cognitive or memory problems; making referrals for screenings and other care; and helping with end-of-life planning. 

If other screenings are needed, they will be scheduled separately and you should be sure to talk to your healthcare provider about cost. There is generally no cost for most preventive screenings, however, when and how often you can get these services varies by person and screening. There are also some screenings that aren’t covered. For example, Medicare covers a one time visual acuity screening but does not cover routine eye exams for the purposes of contact lenses or eyeglasses.

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