Taking Full Advantage of Medicare Benefits

Courtesy agewellvt.org    A critical part of preventing falls and other health problems as one ages is staying physically active and promoting wellness. To this end, Medicare covers an annual wellness visit to determine a patient’s health risks.

As people age, it’s important to receive wellness care: healthcare that may lower risk of illness or injury. Medicare pays for some wellness care, but it does not pay for all the wellness care a patient might need. At Calyx Health, we want our patients to know about their Medicare benefits and how we can help patients get the most from them.

The term “physical” is often used to describe wellness care. But Medicare does not pay for a traditional, head-to-toe physical. Medicare does, however, pay for an annual wellness visit to identify health risks and help reduce them. Unfortunately, just 15 to 20 percent of Medicare seniors take advantage of this benefit — partly due to lack of awareness among seniors, as well as a perceived difficulty by medical practices to implement it.

During a 60-minute annual wellness visit, our team conducts a comprehensive health-risk assessment. This includes: 

  • A medical and family history review
  • A limited physical exam to check blood pressure, weight, vision, hearing and other things depending on age, gender and level of activity
  • Functional assessment to assess gait, fall risk and independence in completing activities of daily living
  • Mental health screening to evaluate for depression, anxiety or other mood disorders that are often treatable and can dramatically improve a senior’s well-being
  • Cognitive testing to help differentiate between someone who seems forgetful to family and friends and an elder who is developing Alzheimer’s Disease or another type of dementia
  • Lifestyle habits, which include discussions about movement, nutrition, and other social determinants of health
  • Preliminary discussions around advanced care planning 

The goal of the annual wellness visit is to create a comprehensive prevention plan that can be used by the physician and patient to focus care over the coming year. Rather than waiting for problems to arise or having solely a symptom-based approach to medicine, the annual wellness visit defines a path for prevention and creates more space for patient-defined goals of care.

If you have not visited a primary care doctor in over a year or are searching for a new Medicare doctor, the annual wellness visit provides an easy, no-cost opportunity to jump-start health plans and goals, as well as determine if a particular physician or clinic is right for you.

If you or someone you know has Medicare and could benefit from an annual wellness visit, call 402-1471 or visit calyxhealth.com to schedule an appointment.

 

Anita Gaind, MD, MPH, FACP is a board-certified internal medicine physician and medical director at Calyx Health, a doctor’s office exclusively for Medicare seniors located in South Shore Center.