Blog: Wellness Wisdom—What You Need To Know About Medicare Preventive and Screening Services

Alliance for Aging Research Team August 2, 2021 Blog

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. The Alliance’s new fact sheet gives important details about the yearly visits covered by Medicare and what’s included, preparing for visits, how much preventive services cost, and a closer look at vision and cognitive screening services. Below, the Alliance’s Vice President of Health Education and Advocacy Lindsay Clarke answers questions about preventive and screening services covered by Medicare:

Please tell us about the Alliance’s new resource, Wellness Wisdom, A Guide to Preventive and Screening Services Covered by Medicare. Why is it important, and what type of information does it cover?
Medicare covers a lot of wonderful preventive screenings and services, but figuring out what’s covered, when it’s covered, and what to expect can be confusing. The Alliance created this new resource to act as a quick reference for beneficiaries and their families who are interested in learning more about prevention through Medicare.

The fact sheet offers an overview of the “Welcome to Medicare” preventive visit and the yearly “Wellness” visits, how to prepare for the visits and what’s included, additional screenings that are covered by Medicare, a closer look at vision and cognitive screening services, and how much everything costs.

What types of visits are covered by Medicare?
Medicare covers two types of annual visits: 1) the “Welcome to Medicare” preventive visit and 2) the yearly “Wellness” visits. These preventive visits are NOT head-to-toe physicals, but they’re a great opportunity to make sure you’re up to date on important screenings and vaccines, talk to your healthcare provider about your family and medical history, and 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 are hoping to prevent one. They can help us stay healthy and find medical problems early.

The “Welcome to Medicare” preventive visit is a one-time, initial visit for everyone who has had Medicare Part B (medical insurance) for FEWER than 12 months. Be sure to schedule a visit as soon as your coverage starts. Once you have had Medicare Part B for 12 months, Medicare covers a yearly “Wellness” visit every year.

What should patients expect to happen at these visits?
During both the “Welcome to Medicare” preventive visit and the yearly “Wellness” visits, your healthcare provider will review your medical, social, and family history; work with you to develop a personalized preventive screening schedule based on your particular health conditions and risk factors; take routine measurements like weight and blood pressure; and discuss your risk of depression.

 A basic visual acuity screening with an eye chart is covered at the “Welcome to Medicare” visit, as is a once-in-a-lifetime electrocardiogram (ECG/EKG).

At subsequent yearly “Wellness” visits, your healthcare provider may screen you for dementia or other cognitive impairment by asking you questions or using a screening tool. They should also offer to give you information about end-of-life planning like creating an advance directive.

What can people do to prepare for their “Welcome to Medicare” or yearly “Wellness” visit?

It’s important to make sure you bring the following to your visits:

  • Medical records, including vaccine records
  • A list of prescription drugs, over-the-counter drugs, and supplements that you take regularly
  • A list of healthcare providers and suppliers
  • Family health history—try to learn as much as you can about your family’s health history before your appointment
  • Any other information that can help determine if you are at risk for certain diseases

Where can you find more information about Medicare preventive services?
Our new Wellness Wisdom: A Guide to Preventive Screening Services Covered by Medicare fact sheet is a great place to start. The Medicare program also has details and answers to commonly asked questions at Medicare.gov.

Join us for the Wellness Wisdom Twitter Chat on August 19 at 1 p.m. ET! Follow @Aging_Research on Twitter to participate.