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Medicare Beneficiaries, Do You Know The Difference Between A Wellness Visit And A Physical?

A number of stories have recently appeared in the press about Medicare beneficiaries blindsided by charges for physical exams they expected to be free of charge. The cause: patients failed to understand the difference between a
physical exam
and Medicare’s free Annual Wellness Visit. Here’s what you
need to know to avoid surprise charges.

months or more after enrolling in Plan B, you are entitled to a free Annual Wellness Visit. There is no co-pay and no deductible. However, this
is NOT a traditional head-to-toe physical exam. Basically, the Annual Wellness Visit is a screening. Its purpose is to create a baseline of your health status, document your health history, catch serious
health issues early on, and formulate a healthy lifestyle for you
going forward. 

What happens during your visit will depend on your age and other factors, but generally includes:

  • Screening
    for blood pressure, height and weight
  • Eyesight and
    hearing check
  • Listening to
    heart and lungs
  • Cognitive
  • Discussion
    of health concerns, lifestyle, and appropriate schedule for normal additional screenings,
    vaccinations, etc.
  • Reviewing
    family health history
  • Documenting
    current prescriptions

Tip: When you call your doctor’s office to make an appointment for your wellness visit, be sure to refer to it as that: the annual wellness visit. Do not use the term “physical” unless you want a head-to-toe exam and are prepared to pay for it. Also, if discussions with your doctor during the wellness visit lead to his/her recommending additional tests or appointments, or you request them, there will be additional charges.

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