Mind & Body
Be Well Aware of Medicare Wellness Benefits
1/3/2019 11:32:50 AM

If you’re a Medicare enrollee but have not had an annual wellness visit or have chosen to opt out due to confusion about coverage, you are missing out on a wide array of preventive – and even life-saving – benefits that are part of your policy. 

According to family medicine specialist Steve Springer, MD, with Imperial Health, since it was introduced in 2011, research shows that people with Medicare who take advantage of the annual wellness visit are more likely to receive important preventive care services like vaccines and cancer screenings than those who skip out on the visit. "Research also shows that only a minority of older adults – less than 15% -- know about it, and even fewer get it, although this exam can make a big difference in not only an individual’s health, but their overall quality of life as well.”

Dr. Springer says the transition to Medicare can be overwhelming and confusing. "This is made worse for many because a lot of doctors don’t even accept new Medicare patients anymore. Finding a doctor becomes more of a concern than choosing the right plan or understanding your benefits. That’s why we’ve created a comprehensive Medicare provider program in our office. We work to make sure our patients get everything they are entitled to from their Medicare coverage, including their preventive health plan.” 

Once you’ve been on Medicare Part B for a year, you’re eligible for an annual wellness exam at no charge. It is designed to address the health risks and needs of aging adults. "This visit does not focus on a physical exam, but instead on a conversation with us about important health issues, such as what health issues might be holding you back from enjoying this phase of your life, whether you're at risk of falling at home or are feeling depressed,” says Dr. Springer. "This visit provides time for you to plan with your doctor for a healthy future."

He explains that the visit begins with a conversation with a member of the clinical team and the completion of a health risk assessment that outlines your medical and family history and any current conditions and prescriptions. "This information also helps us gain a good understanding of your level of independence,” says Dr. Springer.  

During the visit, questions and examination include:
  • Basic measurements. For example, height, weight, and blood pressure.
  • Calculation of body mass index. The number can show if you are overweight or even underweight.
  • Vision test. This can detect whether you need glasses or a stronger prescription, or if you have signs of an eye disease or eyesight problem.
  • Cognitive impairment test. You may be asked to draw a clock or perform a similar memory task.
  • Depression screening. The results can help determine if you need additional assessments.
  • Balance test. This can help gauge your risk for falls.
  • Hearing evaluation. This can gauge if you might benefit from a formal hearing screening.
"After this visit, we take all this information and work with the patient to create a personalized health plan to address any concerns and schedule further tests if needed,” says Dr. Springer. "Very often, we uncover risks or conditions that patients were unaware of and are able to treat them earlier, thus preventing more serious health problems down the road.” 
He says the wellness exam can also lead to other preventive health programs that are covered at no charge, such as nutritional counseling, smoking cessation and mental health care, among others. 

"We do chronic care management service as well for these patients,” says Dr. Springer. "This means that even after the patient leaves our office, we continue to work on their care, reviewing results, setting up referral appointments, talking to your other healthcare providers. We are spending time on each of these patients every month even when the patient isn’t in our office. This helps us work through the preventative plan we come up with during their wellness visit.”  

In addition, Dr. Springer says he and his staff review the patients' Medicare benefits with them to make sure they understand their policy and coverage. "For example, some people don’t understand that they a yearly CAT scan for lung cancer screening is covered,” says Dr. Springer. "They can do that every year if they’re a smoker and even 15 years after they quit.”

Dr. Springer says their goal is to help Medicare patients live a healthy, full life. "The benefits help us do that – we just need to help more people become aware of them.” 

For more information about Medicare wellness exams and preventive services available through Dr. Springer, call (337) 436-1370.
Posted by: Kristy Armand | Submit comment | Tell a friend

Categories: Health

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