Aging Well
September 10, 2019

5 reasons to schedule your Medicare Annual Wellness Visit

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The Annual Wellness Visit helps your doctor provide you with the best plan of care, customized to your needs. Here’s why you should schedule your Medicare wellness exam.

 

If you’re on Medicare, you are entitled to a free annual wellness visit to assess your health. Although the AWV is not a physical, it secures you valuable one-on-one time with your primary care provider. Plus, a Medicare wellness exam covers health concerns not always addressed at other appointments and provides you with a comprehensive health plan going forward.

We interviewed H. Edward Odom, M.D. of Vanderbilt University Medical Center to find out how the AWV can help you and your physician work towards your optimal health.

 

1. The visit provides a dedicated time to talk with your physician.

If you visit the doctor only when you’re sick, that appointment will revolve around your getting well, as opposed to your comprehensive health care needs. The AWV solves this issue by serving as a chance for you and your physician to collaborate on your whole health, rather than just one specific issue.

“Often routine follow-up or acute care medical visits are focused on the management of chronic conditions or on evaluating and treating a new complaint,” Odom explained. “So there’s often not time to really review the status of health maintenance and preventive measures and to spend a lot of time counseling and evaluating patients.” The AWV provides that time.

2. The Medicare Annual Wellness Visit is a free service.

Medicare covers this wellness visit at 100 percent, Odom said. There’s no copay or need to meet your deductible if you’re only seeking out a Medicare wellness exam. However, if your appointment goes beyond the scope of the wellness visit, patients may be responsible for some form of a copay or deductible. This might happen if your doctor needs to order additional testing or evaluate and treat a new or chronic health issue, Odom said.

3. The Medicare wellness exam is a chance to update your medication list and ask questions.

While most doctor’s visits will involve going over your list of medications, this is an especially important function of the AWV. “We do what’s called a medication reconciliation,” Odom explained. Clinicians will ensure that your list of medications is accurate. Plus, they’ll talk with you about each medication’s purpose and the prescribed dose and address any questions you may have. This appointment can also refill your prescriptions.

4. The visit addresses your overall wellness.

Your physician will assess aspects of your health that other appointments overlook. You’ll possibly undergo a fall risk assessment, brief memory testing, a visual acuity test, screening for depression and more. Your doctor will take the time to discuss how you’re doing overall. This may include whether you’re having issues sleeping or performing your usual activities.

“If you are able to assess that a patient’s global functioning is declining,” Odom said, “then sometimes you can intervene by ordering physical therapy or home health care or clarifying or assisting with medications or other interventions.”

5. You’ll receive a personalized prevention plan to help keep you well in the future.

After your Medicare wellness exam, you’ll have a personalized prevention plan of service. Your plan will provide a roadmap for your health going forward. This especially regards preventive practices like the need for any screenings, vaccines or lifestyle changes. “Prevention is good patient care,” Odom said. “You’d much rather prevent a stroke, or a fall and hip fracture, then treat it after the fact.”

Patient speaking to her doctor during her Medicare annual wellness visit.

Are you or your loved ones on Medicare? If so, make sure to take advantage of your free Medicare annual wellness visit by the end of the year. Ask your doctor about an annual wellness visit so you can be sure you are doing everything you can to stay as healthy as possible.

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