If you have an irritating pain or ache, it is only natural to try to ignore it in the hope that it goes away. However, this is a bad idea for seniors because that innocuous twinge could be a sign of a serious illness. With the aid of the Affordable Healthcare Act, Medicare decided that it was no longer prudent to wait until patients were sick to treat them.
Preventive screenings keep you healthy, avoiding diseases and illnesses in the first place. Preventive care also finds diseases in their infancy and enables doctors to prescribe a course of treatment to help you return to health.
How Do I Benefit?
If you have Medicare, you are entitled to a variety of exams, screenings, and lab tests to help catch health problems early. In an increasing number of cases, doctors find illnesses when they are still curable or treatable. There are also a number of free immunizations offered.
Medicare works hard to ensure that all seniors are aware of this free service by covering a “Welcome to Medicare” visit with a doctor in the first year of Part B coverage. During this discussion, your physician will evaluate your health and discuss the preventive services you need, such as screenings or shots. The doctor can also make referrals for further care if necessary, and there is no out-of-pocket cost.
Bring details of your family’s medical history, your list of prescriptions, and your medical records to the appointment. You also receive a free annual wellness visit, which is different from an annual physical in that you discuss your health with your physician.
Based on the information you provide, your doctor will create a personalized prevention plan. He or she will also review your medications and measure your height, weight, BMI, and blood pressure.
What Is Covered?
Here is a list of the preventive screenings covered by Medicare, divided into those with no co-pay and those with co-pay for the physician’s visit.
Free Test and No Co-pay
- Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm: A one-time ultrasound available to men aged 65-75, those with a family history of the condition, or those who smoke 100 cigarettes a day (An estimated 15,000 Americans die annually from a ruptured aortic aneurysm)
- Alcohol Misuse Screening: One screening a year(Four face-to-face counseling sessions if you have a drinking problem, in your physician’s opinion)
- Bone Mass Measurement: Every two years for people at risk of osteoporosis
- Breast Cancer Screening: Every year for women over the age of 40 (It is the second biggest cause of cancer death amongst American women)
- Cervical and Vaginal Cancer Screening: Annually for all women with Medicare if considered high risk; every two years for those not at risk
- Colorectal Cancer Screening: There are various free tests including a Fecal Occult Test, but other tests, such as a Barium Enema, require co-pay
- Depression Screening: Annually for everyone with Medicare(An estimated 16% of Americans over the age of 65 suffer from depression)
- Diabetes Screening: Twice a year for anyone at high risk, including those with a history of high blood sugar
- EKG Heart Screening: An annual exam to check for heart disease, which is the number one cause of death in America(It is also free when your physician recommends it to check out a condition)
- Hepatitis C Screening: At-risk parties are eligible for an annual screening whereas other Medicare beneficiaries receive a one-time exam
- HIV Screening: An annual screening, although pregnant women are entitled to a free screening every three months(An estimated one million Americans have HIV, but 20% don’t know they are infected)
- Lab Services: Tests such as urinalysis and blood tests when ordered by your doctor
- Lung Cancer Screening: An annual screening if you’re at risk(Aged 55-77, existing smokers, ex-smokers who quit within the last 15 years, and those who smoke an average of one pack a day for 30+ years
- Medical Nutrition Therapy: An annual discussion with a licensed nutritionist with three hours of therapy in year one and two hours for every subsequent year (You are eligible if you have diabetes or kidney disease)
- Obesity Screening and Counseling: An annual screening (If you receive the obese classification, you receive free counseling for up to a year to help you improve your health and manage your weight)
- STI Screening and Counseling: An annual exam with up to two counseling sessions if any test comes back positive (Pregnant women can receive this exam more frequently upon a doctor’s request)
- Smoking Cessation Counseling: Medicare covers up to eight face-to-face visits over a one-year period if you are a smoker and want to quit
Tests with Co-pay
- Cardiovascular Heart Disease Screening: Annual screening plus a blood test every five years if deemed at risk
- Glaucoma Test: Performed annually to check for possible eye diseases (Your Part B deductible applies along with co-pay)
- Prostate Cancer Screening: An annual exam for men aged 50+(Medicare covers both the PSA test and digital rectal exam; there is a co-pay attached to the rectal exam, and your Medicare Part B deductible also applies)
- Flu Shot: An annual shot during the fall or winter for anyone with Medicare
- Hepatitis B Shots: A series of three shots when your doctor orders them
- Pneumonia Shots: Medicare beneficiaries receive a pneumonia shot once they turn 65
If you have Medicare, there is no excuse not utilize the free preventive screening tests outlined above. One of these exams could genuinely prove the difference between life and death.