I received a received a post card in the mail the other day from the good people at ClareMedica reminding me that it was time to schedule an appointment for my “Medicare Annual Wellness Visit”. I remember that I had been to the doctor for what I thought was a physical exam not too long ago, so I wasn’t sure what this was all about. I decided to call the office to find out.
Christy, the scheduler at the ClareMedica office is always delightful and very patient with me. She took the time to explain to me a few things about the difference between a Medicare Annual Wellness Visit and what I termed as a physical. Turns out that there’s a big difference…here’s what I found out:
Annual Wellness Visit or Annual Physical Exam…What’s the difference?
Christy explained to me that many people consider a yearly trip to the doctor for a physical part of their routine care. Some may think of a physical as a head-to-toe assessment of their health, and they might also expect tests, screenings, X-rays, and other procedures. In reality, she went on to tell me, the physical exam is a brief review of the body to determine if there is, or is not, a physical problem. In this instance the doctor does things like:
Looking at the body (inspection)
Feeling the body with fingers or hands (palpation)
Listening to the body’s sounds (auscultation)
Producing sounds, usually by tapping on areas of the body (percussion)
“Notice that I didn’t mention specific tests or procedures?” said Christy. “That’s because the doctor gathers information through his or her senses—what is seen, felt or heard. Tests could be ordered based on this information, but these would not be covered under the cost of the physical exam, and by the way, Medicare does not cover an annual physical exam as such,” she went on to explain.
“So what does Medicare cover?” I asked, “…and how can I be sure I’m getting the right routine examinations throughout the year?” I added.
Enter the Medicare Annual Wellness Visit
Christy explained to me that Medicare covers the entire cost of an Annual Wellness Visit, and that as an eligible Medicare beneficiary, I was entitled to this benefit once every year. “Wow, who knew?” I thought to myself. Christy went on to explain that, “the purpose of the Annual Wellness Visit is to develop or update a personalized prevention plan for you Mare, meaning that it sets a schedule for all of what could be routine examinations throughout the year for each of the issues that are troubling you.” Here’s what she told me to expect when I visit the office:
A health risk assessment (A series of questions that I answer about my health)
A review of my medical and family history
Developing or updating a list of my current health care providers and prescriptions
Documenting my height, weight, blood pressure, and other routine measurements that represent important benchmarks of my health
Looking for signs of memory loss or dementia
Personalized health advice specifically for me based on the outcomes of the doctor’s findings
A list of risk factors and treatment options for me as required
A screening schedule (like a checklist) for the preventive services recommended for me – part of a preventative care plan designed to better monitor my health and reduce the risk of any issues becoming chronic. Things like diabetes, hypertension, that sort of thing.
Best of all she let me know that there is no copayment for the Annual Wellness Visits, and these visits are not subject to a Medicare Part B deductible.
“However,” she reminded me, “you may have to pay a share of the cost for certain recommended tests or services, just like you would normally with Medicare,” she said, “but the Annual Wellness Visit is a pretty comprehensive and preventative review that gets to the heart of setting up routine screenings and examinations for you Mare.”
She went on to add, “And I know that you understand how important it is to keep a regular scheduled review of these things…in fact you’re one of our best examples of a responsible patient. You really know how to partner with us to take the best care of yourself, and we are very thankful for that. It makes it a pleasure for us to work with you Mare!” I know that she didn’t have to add the last bit, but I could tell that she was sincere and in a way, it made me feel kind of proud.
So what did I learn?
The bottom line is that the Annual Wellness Visit is an important Medicare benefit that helps me and my doctor stay on top of my health. While this visit is not a physical, in many ways it accomplishes the same thing, and the bonus is that it doesn’t have a copayment expense.
I got to know better, by calling Christy and scheduling my Annual Wellness Visit at ClareMedica. You should too. If you’re Medicare eligible, take my advice and call to schedule this appointment right away. After all…I think that at our age we all deserve ongoing wellness so make sure you get it!
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Source 1. Source 2.