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Make the most of Medicare's free wellness visits

If you are insured through Medicare, you qualify for a free, annual wellness visit with your primary care provider. This visit serves a different purpose from — and cannot be used for — an annual physical.

"For most patients, 'wellness visit' and 'annual physical' sound like the same thing," says Candace Malson, DNP, ANP-BC, a family medicine provider at Lake Regional Clinic – Laurie. "But for Medicare, these two terms are not interchangeable. Medicare provides a free wellness visit, which focuses on helping patients prevent health problems. Medicare does not provide a free annual physical, which includes an overall exam to detect and treat problems."

What does a wellness visit include?

If you have been enrolled in Medicare Part B for more than 12 months, you are eligible for one free wellness visit each year. (If you just enrolled, don't worry — you also receive a free "welcome" visit.)

  • You will fill out a questionnaire to help your provider assess your health.
  • Your provider will measure your height, weight and blood pressure.
  • Your provider also will screen for any issues with memory or cognition.
  • You will review your medical history together and talk about risk factors.
  • Your provider will create a health care plan for your next 5 to 10 years. This may include recommended screenings, vaccines or new medications.
  • Your provider will offer advance care planning, which provides you the opportunity to share the health care you want if you become unable to make decisions about your care.

What is not included?

Medicare's wellness visit does not include a free physical exam or any tests. Neither does it include care for any current health concerns. Adding these elements to the visit will create additional costs.

How should I prepare for my wellness visit?

  1. Bring any relevant medical information with you; for example, vaccine records and current prescriptions.
  2. Know your family medical history. Your provider will use this information when recommending other tests or health checks.
  3. Make a note of anything you might want to discuss. For example, do you want to plan advance directives or think about making your home safer?

And, equally as important, schedule your next annual visit as soon as possible. This will help you protect your health and make the most of your Medicare coverage.

Categories: Preventive care

No surprise bills

Visit to download "Your Guide to Medicare Preventive Services," a booklet explaining which preventive services Medicare covers and how often they are covered, plus what you pay for services. For many services, you pay nothing.

See your costs