There’s no time like now to schedule an annual wellness visit
From summer golfing to fall cookouts and holiday decorating with the grandkids, your schedule may be packed with activities. But there’s one more thing you should add to your yearly to-do list if you haven’t done so this year: Schedule an annual wellness visit.
This visit is a time to work with a primary care provider (PCP) to create a personalized plan focused on preventive care. The goal is to help avoid injury, illness and disease. The visit is covered at no additional cost by Medicare Part B and can be scheduled once every 12 months.1
Scheduling your annual wellness visit at the start of the year is a great way to remember to get it on the calendar. "It can be scheduled at any time,” says Sarah Romanelli, a geriatric nurse practitioner at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City and founder of Allied Aging.
What happens during an annual wellness visit?
An annual wellness visit focuses on helping to prevent disease and avoid injury. During the visit, a questionnaire, called a “health risk assessment, will be filled out. Questions may include:
- How do you rate your overall health?
- How do you rate your quality of life?
- How do you rate your mental health, including your mood and your ability to think?
- How much has pain interfered with your daily activities over the past week?
- Have you had any trouble doing daily activities, such as bathing, getting dressed, eating, using the toilet, going grocery shopping or managing money.
The answers to these questions will help the provider develop a personalized prevention plan to help stay independent and healthy. “During the visit the provider will check height, weight and blood pressure, and review your medical history, current medications and any ongoing health concerns,” says Soma Mandal, M.D., an internist in Berkeley Heights, New Jersey.
“It’s also an opportunity to discuss any lifestyle changes or health goals,” adds Dr. Mandal. “The provider can give guidance on healthy eating, exercise, stress management and other lifestyle factors that can impact overall health and well-being.”
The provider will also perform a cognitive assessment. If they have any concerns, they may schedule a separate visit to do a more thorough review to check for conditions such as dementia, depression and anxiety, and to create a care plan.
It’s important to note that while an annual wellness visit itself is considered preventive care and is available at no additional cost for eligible members, any blood work or additional tests the provider orders may not be covered. There could be charges for any applicable labs or copays. Contact your health plan for more guidance.1
Some things to keep in mind when scheduling an annual wellness visit
You need to be enrolled in a Medicare plan for at least 12 months
Eligible members can only qualify for an annual wellness visit if they’ve had Medicare Part B (medical insurance) coverage for longer than 12 months. But here’s something to remember: Medicare offers a “Welcome to Medicare” preventive visit for new members.1 Those who have had that initial Medicare visit will need to wait 12 months before scheduling an annual wellness exam. Members who haven’t taken advantage of the Medicare visit can schedule an annual wellness exam at any time.2
An annual wellness visit will only be covered by Medicare once every 12 months
This doesn’t mean you have to see a provider during the same month every year. But in order for a wellness visit to be covered by insurance, the appointment must take place 12 months after the last one. If it’s been longer than 12 months without an annual wellness visit, that’s fine too — the important thing is just to get it on the calendar, says Romanelli.
Schedule the appointment as an annual wellness visit
Unlike a normal office visit, an annual wellness visit doesn’t have a copay. One simple way to help avoid being billed for one: Use the words “annual wellness visit” when scheduling the appointment with a provider.
It may be tempting to skip an annual wellness visit, but it’s worth making the time. “Ultimately, seeing a primary care physician for an annual wellness visit is an investment in your long-term health,” says Dr. Mandal. Not only can a provider address any existing issues, but “by prioritizing preventive care and early intervention, we can work together to help keep you healthy and thriving for years to come.”