Your Medicare benefits will come in handy if you experience any health issues. But what if you stay healthy all year? That’s great, but you should still take advantage of your Medicare benefits. As a Medicare beneficiary, you’re entitled to various preventive services. These preventive benefits can help you stay healthy, so you don’t want to pass them up.
#1: Welcome to Medicare and Annual Visits
New Medicare enrollees are entitled to a “Welcome to Medicare” visit. This visit happens within the first 12 months of your Medicare Part B coverage, and it’s a good time to talk to your doctor about your health concerns, get some tests and screenings, and determine what other services you may need to stay healthy.
Don’t put off scheduling this important visit. Research published in Cancer shows that cancer diagnoses increase at age 65. This is likely because people delay the care and screenings that could have diagnosed instances of cancer earlier, possibly because they were waiting until they had Medicare coverage. Delayed care may be especially common among people who don’t have affordable health coverage in the years leading up to the Medicare eligibility at age 65.
Earlier detection can improve outcomes, so it’s important to stay up to date on your preventive care and screenings. If you’ve just enrolled in Medicare, go ahead and schedule your Welcome to Medicare visit.
After the first year, Medicare beneficiaries can keep up with their care by scheduling annual wellness visits. This visit is a good time to review your prescriptions and risk factors, take some routine measurements, get a cognitive assessment and create a screening checklist. You can also talk to your doctor about advance care planning.
Medicare covers a variety of vaccines designed to help keep you healthy. This includes the COVID vaccine and booster shot. Medicare Part B also covers the flu shot, hepatitis B shot, two different pneumococcal shots.
Some vaccines are normally covered under Medicare Part D. For example, Medicare Part D usually covers the shingles shot and the Tdap shot, which protects against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis.
Some vaccines are supposed to be received annually, such as the flu shot, while others run on different schedules. Talk to your doctor about what vaccines you may need. If you have questions about coverage under your Medicare Advantage or Medicare Part D plan, contact your insurer.
#3: Screenings and Other Preventive Benefits
Your doctor may recommend other preventive services. These can include various screenings and tests, as well as counseling and training sessions. Be sure to discuss your risk factors, including your family’s medical history, so that your doctor can decide which services are needed.
Here are just some of the preventive services your doctor may recommend and that are covered by Medicare:
- Cancer screenings and mammograms
- Infection screening for hepatitis and certain other infections
- Depression screening
- Diabetes screening and self-management training
- Alcohol misuse screening and counseling
- Glaucoma tests for people at high risk of developing glaucoma
- Obesity screening and counseling
- Nutrition therapy for people with diabetes, kidney disease or kidney transplant
- Cardiovascular disease screening and behavioral therapy
- Bone density measurements
- Tobacco use cessation counseling for people who use tobacco
See the Medicare page on preventive and screening services for a list of what Medicare Part B covers, and talk to your doctor about the screenings and services that are right for you.
Costs for Preventive Care
Many preventive care services are covered under Original Medicare with no out-of-pocket costs for you. However, some services may require out-of-pocket costs, such as copays and deductibles. Medicare Advantage also covers many preventive services, and Medicare Advantage plans often provide extra coverage not available under Original Medicare.
If you have questions about your costs, you can contact your insurer or use the Your Medicare Coverage website to look up coverage information for individual services. Your doctor may recommend tests, screenings or treatments that are not covered by Medicare, and you may pay more if you go to a doctor who doesn’t accept Medicare or who is not in your network.
Getting Value from Your Medicare Plan
The old saying is true – prevention really is the best medicine. Preventive services can help you stay healthy and avoid worse health complications and more expensive medical bills down the road. If you’ve been delaying care, now is a good time to catch up.
Do you need help navigating Medicare? Medicare Educators is here to help you. Contact us today.