Welcome to Medicare

Q. I have relatives on Medicare and know I'll use it one day. I have heard a little bit about "Welcome to Medicare" preventive visits and yearly wellness visits. Where can I get more information?

A. Medicare now offers a one-time "Welcome to Medicare" preventive visit and yearly wellness visits that are fully covered for Medicare patients. There is no co-pay for these visits.

With the passing of the Affordable Care Act in January 2011, Medicare expanded its benefits from simply treating conditions and diseases to emphasizing preventive care to keep patients healthy in the first place.

The "Welcome to Medicare" preventive visit must take place within 12 months of enrolling in Medicare Part B, which covers certain doctors' services, outpatient care, medical supplies and preventive services. This visit includes a review of your medical and health history and education and counseling about preventive services including screenings, shots and referrals for other care.

At the visit, your doctor will record your medical history; check your height, weight and blood pressure; calculate your body mass index, and give you a simple vision test. Your doctor will give advice on how to prevent disease, improve your health and stay healthy.

The following information should be brought to your visit:

  • Medical records, including immunizations if you're seeing a new doctor.
  • Family health history.
  • A list of prescription and over-the-counter drugs; vitamins and supplements you are currently taking, how often you are taking them and why.

Medicare is also now offering yearly wellness visits that take place after you've had Medicare Part B for longer than 12 months. These visits help you develop a personalized prevention plan with your doctor and include the following:

  • Review of medical and family history
  • A list of current providers and prescriptions
  • Height, weight, blood pressure and other routine measurements
  • A screening schedule for appropriate preventive services
  • A list of risk factors and treatment options

These preventive care visits include a variety of preventive screenings, vaccinations and counseling. An overview of these preventive benefits can be found in "Your Guide to Medicare's Preventive Services" at http://www.medicare.gov/pubs/pdf/10110.pdf

These preventive benefits are a recent addition to Medicare and although they might seem small, in the end, they can be the difference between sickness and health. Preventive health visits can help establish the baseline for your current health as well as identify any health issues before they become too serious. Overall, these visits can help you maintain and improve your general health and help you lead a happy, healthy life.

Start the New Year off right and make an appointment for your Medicare preventive visit today by calling Junction Medical Clinic at (325) 446-3305.

Before coming to Junction Medical Clinic, Dr. Hinton had a family practice at Peterson Medical Associates in Kerrville, Texas where she also served as the Peterson Home Health Medical Director. She has experience in clinical, emergency, inpatient and long-term care. Dr. Hinton received her medical degree from the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston.