What is Medicare’s Annual Wellness Visit?
If you have Medicare Part B, you are entitled to a "Medicare Annual Wellness Visit" which is different than a traditional physical exam. Medicare does not pay for a physical exam, but they do cover the cost of the wellness visit.
"The Medicare Wellness Visit allows patients to have face-to-face time with their physician to review the health history and to make a health plan for the future," explains Leland McKenna, Business Development Manager at Middlesex Hospital Primary Care.
"Because primary care doctors spend a lot of time dealing with acute issues for Medicare patients, the Wellness Visits allows the provider the opportunity to really focus on a proactive approach to keeping patients healthy. A key component to the Wellness Visit is making sure the patient has had the appropriate preventive services for their age and health history. The visit may focus on topics such as living will, fall prevention, screening for memory loss, and making sure things like height, weight and blood pressure are where they should be for the patient's age.
"It's just a valuable visit that not a lot of patients (a) know about, and (b) take advantage of because it is relatively new and they're used to the traditional physical exams.
The physician will collect height, weight and blood pressure; after that the visit truly is a discussion where the patient can talk about things that normally don't come up at an acute visit. Some of the issues discussed include: are you at a higher risk for falls, are you still able to drive, should you consider assisted living, do you have friends or family members around you who can help if you need help?
The Wellness Visit of a healthy 65-year-old who has Medicare takes on a different dynamic than it would for someone who is 80 and has trouble getting around. In order to make the visit valuable for the patient, the provider must customize the visit based on the needs of the patient.
The Middlesex Hospital Family Residency Program is one of the best training programs for doctors to learn how to do the wellness visits. Middlesex Hospital Primary Care also offers training and staff education meetings where the importance of the wellness visits is discussed. Middlesex Hospital Primary Care has placed an emphasis on the Wellness Visit because of the value the visit can have on a patient's health. "We are committed to educating our patients on the benefits of the visit, and hope to increase the number of Wellness Visits we do each year" states McKenna.
"Once you turn 65 and sign up for Medicare, you are eligible for what is called the 'Welcome to Medicare Visit,' which is the very first of these wellness visits. It just happens to have a different name. Every year after that Medicare will pay for what is called an 'Annual Wellness Visit.' There are no out-of-pocket charges for the patient," he explains.
Middlesex Hospital Primary Care has developed a brochure, titled "Understanding Medicare Wellness Visits – A Patient's Guide" for further details. All of their offices offer wellness visits, "and it's very easy to schedule an appointment," McKenna says.
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