Ben Franklin said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” That’s why Medicare provides free screenings and examinations focused on prevention.
Yes, you still have to spend a lot of out-of-pocket money on healthcare, but a recent article in AARP ,“10 Free Services Medicare Provides,” reports that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) expanded access to free preventive care, including a number of screenings and examinations. These are all helpful to maintaining good health.
- A “Welcome to Medicare” Preventive Visit. Available only in the first 12 months you’re on Part B, this visit includes a review of your medical history, some screenings and shots, measurements of vital signs, a vision test, a review of potential risk for depression, the opportunity to discuss advance directives, as well as a written plan detailing the screenings, shots, and other preventive services you should have. This visit is covered only once, but it’s a good perk.
- An Annual Wellness Visit. You’re eligible for this free exam, if you’ve had Medicare Part B for more than 12 months. Your doctor will review your medical history, update your list of providers and medications, take your vital measurements and provide personalized health advice and treatment options. Note that while the visit is free, your doctor may order other tests or procedures that might have a deductible or co-pay cost.
- Mammogram. An annual screening mammogram is free. If you need a diagnostic mammogram, you’ll pay a 20% copay, and the Part B deductible will apply.
- Colonoscopy. A screening colonoscopy once every 24 months is free, if you're at high risk for colorectal cancer. Even if you’re not at high risk, Medicare covers this test once every 10 years.
- Diabetes Screening. You can get two free screenings a year, if you have a history of high blood pressure, abnormal cholesterol levels, are obese, or have a history of high blood sugar levels. The screenings are also free, if two or more of these issues apply to you: (i) you’re over 65; (ii) you’re overweight; (iii) you have a family history of diabetes; or (iv) you had diabetes when you were pregnant.
- Prostate Cancer Screening. An annual PSA test is free, and a digital rectal exam costs 20% of the Medicare-approved amount, along with the physician services related to the exam. The Part B deductible also applies.
- Vaccines. More free stuff! Your annual flu shot, vaccines to prevent pneumococcal infections like pneumonia, and shots for hepatitis B (for those at high or medium risk) are free. The shingles vaccine is not covered by Part A or Part B. However, it may be covered by your Medicare Advantage (MA) plan or your Part D prescription drug plan.
- Cardiovascular Disease (Behavioral Therapy). As a Medicare recipient, you also get a free annual visit with your primary care provider to help lower your risk for cardiovascular disease.
- Lung Cancer Screening. An annual test with low-dose computed tomography (LDCT) is free, if you’re between 55 and 77, don’t have any signs of lung cancer, are a smoker or have quit in the past 15 years, and you have a tobacco smoking history of at least 30 “pack years” (meaning you smoked an average of one pack a day for 30 years).
- Depression Screening. If it’s conducted in a primary care center, where follow up and referrals are available, an annual screening for depression is free. There may be co-pays for follow-up care, but the screening itself is free.
These are important opportunities to continue taking good care of your health, and the fact that they are free, is icing on the cake!
Reference: AARP (November 21, 2017) “10 Free Services Medicare Provides”