Understanding Medicare Exams and Screenings

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Medicare examinations and visits can be confusing and expensive for your loved ones if they don't understand the rules. Here is how it works.

 

Free “Welcome to Medicare” Visit

 

Your loved one is eligible for a FREE “Welcome to Medicare” visit any time during the first year they have been enrolled in Part B.

 

The free basic exam will include measuring their height, weight, blood pressure, and Body Mass Index (BMI). The doctor will also check their vision and hearing.

 

The doctor will review their medical history, asking questions about previous illnesses, surgeries and medical conditions that may run in your family, and will also discuss necessary health screenings and vaccinations. In addition, the doctor can review your loved one’s potential risk factors for opioid use disorder, evaluate their severity of pain and current treatment plan, provide information on non-opioid treatment options, and may refer them to a specialist, if appropriate.

 

The Welcome to Medicare visit is valuable because it gives the doctor a chance to learn about your loved one as an individual. They can discuss anything of personal concern, including both physical and mental issues they may be facing. This is especially important given that the pandemic has caused a big jump in worry, anxiety and depression among adults 65 and over, the age of most people enrolled in Medicare. If you are worried about a loved one's mental health, the doctor can do a screening test for depression during the wellness visit. (There is no charge for this test.)

 

Costs

 

Although the visit is free, there will be charges under Medicare for additional tests or screenings. For example, the doctor may decide that your loved one needs blood work to look for certain health conditions that run in your family. Or they may need an EKG or a stress test because of heart problems. These additional tests are covered by Medicare, but they are not free. So, be prepared for your loved one to get billed under Part B if the doctor does anything beyond the routine screenings.

 

Don't let your loved one skip this welcome visit. Most people new to Medicare who miss this general test, miss the chance to educate the doctor who may be their primary caregiver for many years.

 

Note: Your loved one is also eligible for an annual wellness visit. Similar to the Welcome to Medicare visit, this is a chance for your loved one to talk with the doctor about their health. Please note that it is not a full physical exam, but rather "an opportunity to develop or update a personalized prevention plan to help prevent disease and disability, based on your current health and risk factors."

 

Screenings Covered by Medicare

 

Medicare covers a wide variety of screenings for preventive care. For example: 

  • Annual flu shots are free.
  • Cardiovascular disease screenings are free once every five years. (This includes blood tests for cholesterol, lipid and triglyceride levels, which can detect the threat of a heart attack or stroke.)
  • Cancer detection coverage testing is extensive:
    • There is a free mammogram screening once a year to check for breast cancer.
    • Pap tests and pelvic exams are free once every 24 months to check for cervical cancer. (Free once a year for women considered at high risk to develop cancer.)
  • Digital rectal exams and PSA tests are available once a year for men over the age of 50. (Although most Medicare participants are over 65, the program covers some disabled people of all ages.)
    • Note that the PSA test is free, but the Part B deductible applies to the rectal exam.

 

To find Medicare's complete testing list click here. 

 

     

   



 

 

Bob Rosenblatt

Bob Rosenblatt has been a reporter for 40 years, specializing in aging issues, such as Medicare, Social Security, pensions, IRAs, and finding assisted living.