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August 2019

Make the Most of Medicare’s Yearly Wellness Visit

Seeing your healthcare provider when you aren’t sick might seem counterintuitive. But an annual wellness visit (AWV) can help you stay your healthiest. It’s a chance for you and your provider to talk about preventing disease or catching it early, when treatment works best. Often, there’s not enough time to fully discuss these issues during other doctor appointments.

Healthcare provider taking blood pressure of an older man

AWVs are covered by Medicare Part B. The first year you have Medicare, you have a similar benefit, called the “Welcome to Medicare” preventive visit. After that, you can schedule an AWV once a year. There’s no cost to you, and the payoff can be huge.

What to expect

At an AWV, you will work with your healthcare provider to create or update a personalized prevention plan. This plan is designed to help you prevent disease and disability. As part of the process, you’ll be asked to complete a questionnaire called a health risk assessment. By answering the questions carefully and fully, you can get the most value from your visit.

In addition, your provider may:

  • Review your personal and family health history

  • Update a list of your medicines and other healthcare providers

  • Measure your height, weight, and blood pressure

  • Discuss any problems you’re having with daily activities such as difficulty with walking or keeping track of your medicines

  • Look for signs of problems with memory or mental functioning 

How you benefit

Based on this assessment, your healthcare provider will provide personalized health advice. In some cases, he or she might refer you to other programs or services, such as ones focused on preventing falls, quitting smoking, or losing weight.

Your provider may also give you a schedule for upcoming vaccines and screening tests. These tests help you find certain diseases at an early stage, when they’re most treatable. Many are covered by Medicare at no cost to you.

Another option your health care provider may offer is advance care planning. This is a chance to express your wishes now about the kind of care you’d want to receive if you become unable to speak for yourself in the future. As part of the planning process, you may fill out an advance directive. This is a written document stating how you want decisions about your medical care to be made if you lose the ability to make them for yourself.

Here’s the deal

Nothing is more valuable than your health. So what does it cost you to protect your precious health by getting an AWV? Not a cent, as long as your provider accepts assignment (payment in full directly from Medicare). There is no copayment, and the usual deductible doesn’t apply. That’s a terrific deal you shouldn’t pass up.


Online Medical Reviewer: McDonough, Brian, MD
Date Last Reviewed: 5/1/2019
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