Stories have recently appeared in the press about Medicare beneficiaries blindsided by fees for physical exams they expected to be free of charge. The cause: patients failed to understand the difference between a physical exam and Medicare’s Free Annual Wellness Visit. Here’s what you need to know to avoid similar surprises:
Twelve months or more after enrolling in Plan B, you are entitled to a Free Annual Wellness Visit. There is no co-pay and no deductible. However, this is NOT a traditional head-to-toe physical exam. Basically, the Annual Wellness Visit is a screening. Its purpose is to create a baseline of your health status, document your health history, catch serious health issues early on, and formulate a healthy lifestyle plan for you going forward.
What happens during your visit will depend on your age and other factors, but generally includes:
- Screening for blood pressure, height and weight
- Eyesight and hearing check
- Listening to heart and lungs
- Cognitive check
- Discussion of health concerns, lifestyle, and appropriate schedule for normal additional screenings, vaccinations, etc.
- Reviewing family health history
- Documenting current prescriptions
Tip: When you call your doctor’s office to make an appointment for your wellness visit, be sure to refer to it as that: the annual wellness visit. Do not use the term “physical” unless you want a head-to-toe exam and are prepared to pay for it. Also, if discussions with your doctor during the wellness visit lead to his/her recommending additional tests or appointments, or you request them, there will be additional charges.
For more information on this topic, check out this March 2019 Kaiser Health News article. Here’s to your good health!