For many years, Medicare covered only injuries and illnesses. There wasn’t even coverage of an annual physical. Considering that Medicare is the primary insurance for tens of millions of seniors in America, this was quite an oversight.
Legislation over the last decade, however, has immensely improved preventive care for seniors. People with Medicare can now take advantage of a number of great screenings and tests that help to prevent and early-diagnose serious health conditions.
Here are five of the top preventive care benefits that you should be taking care of:
Annual Wellness Visit
When you first age into Medicare at age 65, Medicare provides a Welcome to Medicare preventive visit at no charge to you. Every year thereafter, Medicare 100% of the cost of an annual wellness visit. This visit is especially important for seniors with no other health conditions because it might be the only time they see a doctor all year.
Another reason not to miss this visit is that a lot of the other free preventive screenings we cover in the rest of this article can be performed or scheduled while you are getting your annual physical. One pro tip we can offer is to schedule your annual visit in the fall. That way you can get your free flu and pneumonia vaccines while you are at your preventive appointment.
Heart disease kills thousands of people on Medicare every year. Medicare’s cardiovascular risk reduction screening includes a blood pressure check and education counselling to encourage an active lifestyle and a healthy diet. Blood tests for heart disease may also be performed. Your doctor may also educate you on aspirin’s role in preventing heart disease and encourage you to take a daily low dose of aspirin.
Cancer, of course, is another killer and people over 65 are at the greatest risk due to age. Fortunately, there are several screenings provided to you at no cost by Medicare. Pap smears, pelvic exams, and clinical breast exams, as well as mammograms, are covered for women. Prostate screenings are provided for men. Both genders can have a regular colonoscopy to screen for colon cancer.
People who have smoked during their lifetimes but do not have cancer also qualify for a lung cancer screening at no charge.
Bone Mass Measurements
As we age, our bones lose density. Many of us do not get enough calcium or exercise to keep them strong. It’s important to screen for brittle or weak bones so that protocols to try to prevent falls or breaks. This test must be ordered by your doctor if he feels you are at risk for osteoporosis and will be given every 24 months, or more often if medically necessary.
People considered at risk for osteoporosis include women who are oestrogen deficient, people who show signs of osteopenia or vertebral fractures, and people taking steroids.
Medicare covers both obesity screenings (with counselling) and diabetes screenings. If you are obese with a body mass index of 30 or more, you’ll qualify for behavioural counselling and therapy intended to help you lose weight. This includes a series of face to face visits.
Diabetes screenings are provided every 12 months if you have hypertension, dyslipidaemia, prior blood tests showing low glucose, or overweight with a family history of diabetes. The diabetes screening includes a fasting blood glucose test and a posting-glucose challenge test. People diagnosed with pre-diabetes will qualify for additional glucose screenings each year.
As you can see, Medicare provides a number of great preventive care visits at no cost to you. It’s so important to know what these are so that you can be sure your doctor provides them whenever it’s time. Ask your primary care physician today about any screenings you think you may be due for. Should you be diagnosed with a new health condition, Medicare Part B provides for 80% of your outpatient treatment, and your Medicare supplement, if you have one, will often cover the rest.
Danielle Roberts is a Medicare insurance expert. Her agency helps Medicare beneficiaries across America with navigating their Medicare benefits.
Danielle Kunkle Roberts