Medicare’s Annual Wellness Visits: The Changes Explained
Next year, as you may have heard, Medicare will begin covering an annual checkup instead of the current one-time introductory one. In a recent blog post at The New York Times, Medicare expert Joe Baker explains what to expect with that exam.
According to preliminary guidelines released earlier this month by the agency, the first wellness visit must include, among other things, establishing a patient’s medical history; assessing health risk factors and current physical condition, including a patient’s blood pressure, height and weight measurements; and screening for conditions related to cognitive impairments. In addition, the doctor will work with the patient to set a prevention plan for future years, make necessary referrals, and help set up appropriate health education. Future wellness visits will update the information gathered in the first visit, and the doctor will continue to assess the patient’s need for future screenings, interventions and education.
Baker also covers how preventive care will change under the new rules.
As a result of health reform, people with Medicare will no longer have to pay coinsurance, copays or deductibles for preventive services that are given a grade A or B by the United States Preventive Services Task Force. So, for example, the hepatitis B vaccine, mammograms, colorectal cancer screenings and prostate cancer screenings will be free beginning next year. It is, however, important to follow Medicare’s guidelines for receiving these preventive services. Some are covered only once every few years and others are covered only if specific criteria are met.
You can read Baker’s full explanation here: “Answers About Medicare: Part 1.” In the post, he also answers two other Medicare questions: what the future of Medicare Advantage coverage looks like, and whether someone turning 65 should drop employee-provided insurance. The Times invites readers to ask more questions in the comments section.
Tomorrow, we’ll talk about a second set of Medicare questions and answers from Baker.
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