Take advantage of your Medicare wellness visits

Whether you are new to Medicare or you’ve had a Medicare plan for several years, taking advantage of wellness visits is one step you can take to better health.

“Medicare has more focus today than before on wellness, and the wellness benefits are designed to help you stay well and identify problems as early as possible, both of which improve outcomes,” said Mark Meeker, DO, an internal medicine physician and vice president of Community Medicine at OSF HealthCare.

Two visits to schedule

If you’re new to Medicare, you are eligible to one free “Welcome to Medicare” visit. This visit must be completed during the first 12 months you are covered by a Medicare plan.

Once you’re a Medicare member and after you’ve completed your “Welcome to Medicare” visit during your first 12 months of coverage, from that point on you are eligible to an annual wellness visit with your primary care provider.

These visits aren’t just helpful for you, as a patient, they’re also helpful for your care provider.

“These visits provide dedicated times to review care gaps and health maintenance issues, which may get rushed or even overlooked during an acute illness visit or chronic disease management visit,” Dr. Meeker said.

‘Welcome to Medicare’

You only have this type of visit once, and it must be done during the first year you are eligible for Medicare.

During this visit, your primary care provider will complete the following:

  • Medical and family history
  • Depression screening
  • Safety screening to make sure you can safely get around on your own
  • Check of your height, weight, vision and BMI (body mass index)
  • Education about your conditions
  • Order screening tests
  • Referrals to specialists for any areas of concern
  • Discuss end-of-life planning

This visit does not include a physical exam. If you expect a physical exam, you must schedule an illness or preventive medicine visit. The “welcome” visit is fully paid by Medicare; you do not pay anything for this visit.

Annual wellness visit

Visiting your primary care provider for an annual physical is an important step in your health care journey.

But for those on Medicare, the annual Medicare wellness visit is just as important. The wellness visit is available once every 12 months and is provided at no cost to you.
The visit is an opportunity to talk with your OSF HealthCare provider about how to stay healthy. During this visit, your provider will:

      • Update your medical and family history
      • List the doctors and others who provide care to you and any medical equipment you use and update the list yearly
      • Screen for mental functions such as memory and reasoning or depression
      • Conduct a safety screening to make sure you can safely get around on your own
      • Check your height, weight, vision and BMI (body mass index)
      • Provide education about your conditions
      • Order screening tests
      • Refer you to specialists for any areas of concern
      • Develop a screening test schedule for the next five to 10 years
      • Provide you a list of your personal risk factors and how it’s recommended you address them
      • Provide you with personal health advice based on the information collected
      • Discuss end-of-life planning

    Take advantage of your wellness visits.

    >Schedule an appointment today.

This visit does not include a physical exam. If you want a physical exam, you must schedule an illness or preventive medicine visit.

Taking care of yourself

The time you spend with your primary care provider during these appointments can better educate you about your personal health situation.

“It allows for time to dive into the ‘why’ behind screening tests and wellness topics,” Dr. Meeker said. “It better equips the patient with an understanding of what more they can do to lead the healthiest life possible.”

What to ask

Dr. Meeker recommends having health screening and wellness questions ready when it’s time for your appointment, whether it’s a Welcome to Medicare visit or the annual wellness visit.

Asking the right questions during your visit can help you get the information you really need. These five questions can help prevent health problems before they arise. You can get other tips on how to prepare for your annual visit here.

  • Do I need any vaccinations like the flu shot?
  • Does my weight, diet or any other behavior put me at risk of diabetes, heart disease, or another condition?
  • Should I be screened for high cholesterol, high blood sugar or high blood pressure?
  • Are my medication needs still the same?
  • Should I have any other health screenings this year, such as one for depression or an eye exam for glaucoma?

“Illness avoidance and early detection require an intentional effort,” Dr. Meeker said. “Good health is a very important piece to quality of life. Take the time to take care of yourself.”

If you’re new to Medicare or are behind in getting your annual visit, schedule your appointment with your primary care provider today through OSF MyChart.

Last Updated: April 20, 2022

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About Author: Lisa Coon

Lisa Coon is a Writing Coordinator for OSF HealthCare, where she has worked since August 2016.  A Peoria native, she is a graduate of Bradley University with a degree in journalism. Previously, she worked as a reporter and editor at several newspapers in Iowa and Illinois.

She lives in Groveland with her husband and son. In her free time she likes to cook, bake and read. She freely admits that reality TV is a weakness, and she lives by the quote, “The beach is good for the soul.”

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Categories: General, Preventive Health