News | Published January 27, 2020

The Medicare annual wellness visit: What is it, and why does it matter?

Xenia Kugler, CRNP, Mount Nittany Physician Group Internal Medicine

Whether you’ve just turned 65 and are new to Medicare, or you have been receiving Medicare benefits for many years, you have likely heard of the Medicare annual wellness visit. You may have also been encouraged to participate by your insurance company and prompted to schedule an appointment with your primary care provider.

So, what exactly is the Medicare annual wellness visit, and why does Medicare want you to participate?

The Medicare annual wellness visit is a yearly appointment between you and your primary care provider that focuses on preventative care – healthcare that focuses on preventing you from becoming ill, and keeps you healthy and out of the hospital. Medicare covers this visit at no cost to you, including no co-pays or deductibles.

You may be asking yourself why Medicare would pay for a free annual visit. It’s simply because research shows that evidence-based preventative medicine helps reduce negative outcomes by preventing illness, promoting health and reducing overall healthcare costs. Focusing on preventative care helps your provider find and address potential problems before they become an issue. The overall goal of preventative healthcare medicine is promoting personal wellbeing while preventing disease, illness, disability and death. Prevention is the foundation for keeping you healthy and active while providing longevity and positive health outcomes.

Scheduling a visit
Getting scheduled for your annual wellness visit is the easiest way to know that your provider is ensuring your immunizations and cancer screenings are up to date. The visit is comprehensive and includes screenings for vision, hearing, memory, cognition, depression, injury risks, behavioral risks and home safety.

At your visit, you’ll also want to update your provider on any specialists you see, your current medications list and any allergies. The provider will review your vital signs, pertinent medical history and relevant family history, as well as, discuss advanced care directives and preventative counseling services such as smoking cessation, physical activity evaluation, screening for mental health counseling, and nutrition counseling.

Eligibility
Medicare Part B covers the annual wellness visit as long as you have had Part B for more than one year and you have not received an annual wellness visit in the past 12 months. It’s also important to note that you cannot receive your annual wellness visit within the same year as your welcome to Medicare preventative visit.

It is important to understand that annual wellness visits are not a replacement for an annual physical, or meant to replace an appointment made for a specific ailment, as additional testing may not be covered under the exam. If you would like to see your provider for a new or ongoing issue, it’s best to schedule a regular exam for evaluation.

For more information on the annual Medicare wellness visits, visit Medicare.gov. To schedule an adult annual wellness visit with a primary care provider at one of seven primary care locations throughout the region, visit MyMountNittanyHealth.com or call 1.844.278.4600. To learn more about preventative care and annual wellness visits, visit mountnittany.org/wellnessvisit.

Xenia Kugler, CRNP, is a Certified Registered Nurse Practitioner with Mount Nittany Physician Group Internal Medicine at its Mount Nittany Health – Bellefonte location.