Medicare patients have access to an excellent health benefit: the Medicare wellness visit. Patients become eligible for the initial Welcome to Medicare Wellness Visit at age 65. After that, you’re eligible to receive an Annual Wellness Visit (AWV). These visits are focused on wellness—preventing disease and maintaining good health.
The AWV was initiated as health statistics showed that chronic illnesses such as hyperlipidemia, hypertension, heart disease and diabetes—often caused by modifiable risk factors—were not well managed, and were associated with significant spending increases, particularly for Medicare beneficiaries.
The fact that Medicare recognizes the importance of preventive services and is willing to pay for them is a big step forward. Having a separate visit dedicated solely to wellness and prevention ensures adequate time for a comprehensive discussion of each patient’s overall health, health history and lifestyle issues.
The Medicare wellness visit is different from what people have come to know as an annual ‘head-to-toe’ physical since the visit doesn’t focus on a patient’s physical exam nor conducts a series of lab tests to address physical conditions. The wellness visit is what we consider a ‘hands-off’ visit that’s focused on your health history, risk factors, review of age-appropriate screenings, and education on disease management and self-care.
Many people can have trouble understanding health care information—especially if they have multiple conditions. The wellness visit strives to improve health literacy which plays a role in helping patients take the right medicine at the right time, or properly manage complex conditions like diabetes or congestive heart disease.
At The Polyclinic, advanced registered nurse practitioners (ARNPs) and physician assistants (PAs) may perform the wellness visit or your doctor may perform it. ARNPs and PAs specialize in health promotion and disease prevention, and are well qualified to perform these education-focused visits. These providers work with Polyclinic internal medicine physicians as part of the patient’s care team.
The wellness visit includes an in-depth discussion of a patient’s:
- Health history
- Medications, vitamins, supplements
- Weight and body mass index (BMI)
- Physical activity
- Tobacco use and cessation options
- Functional abilities, safety and fall prevention
- Vision and hearing screen
- Cognitive abilities and depression screening,
- Age-related health screenings including abdominal aortic aneurysm, bone-density, cardiovascular disease, cholesterol, colonoscopy, diabetes, mammogram, etc.
- Review care you’re receiving from other providers and specialists
- Lifestyle tips on maintaining wellness and reducing risks for chronic diseases
Polyclinic nurse practitioners and physicians try to make this appointment as easy and as comprehensive as possible for patients. We will ensure you have received age-appropriate screening tests and vaccinations, and if you are not up to date, we will order the tests/screens covered by Medicare for you. If you need an immunization we will provide that to you during the visit. This visit also gives you an opportunity to review your medical conditions, and receive education on reducing risk factors. You should also note that if you have current health concerns to address at this visit, these will be subject to your Medicare deductible or coinsurance, or we can schedule another appointment to review them at a later time with your primary care physician.
You may also want to consider that while the annual “head-to-toe” physicals are not covered by Medicare, both the traditional physicals and wellness visits are covered by most Medicare Advantage plans.
If you want to stay healthy and learn new strategies to stay that way, be sure to schedule your Medicare wellness visit. Call 206-860-5510 to directly schedule.