Have you been to the government’s Medicare site lately at Medicare.org? If you have, I hope you made it out alive. It can be one confusing place, and in my opinion, it’s cumbersome to use, especially if you’re trying to figure out just exactly what in the heck your Medicare benefits are.
By the way, if you’re already a MediGap Advisors client, remember that we’re always here to help you with any questions you may have about Medicare, your supplemental coverage, or your Medicare Advantage plan, if you’ve got one.
Maybe my blog title is a bit of a misnomer – I don’t really believe the federal government tries to keep these benefits a secret from you, but I do believe that it can be challenging to figure out exactly what you get out of Medicare. I think it should be easy, or at least easier. I also think knowing about Medicare’s preventive care benefits will be of huge value to you, since above all, preventive care will keep you out of the hospital and doctor’s office for as long as possible.
So here are some preventive benefits Medicare gives you – that’s right, they’re free!
- “Welcome to Medicare” visit – When you sign up for Medicare Part B, you’re entitled to an initial visit with your doctor strictly aimed at talking about your health and what can be done to prevent illness. Your doctor will take your medical history, perform a full exam, and order any tests he/she feels are necessary. You’ll leave with a written “prevention plan” that you can refer to afterwards.
- Yearly wellness visit – Hopefully you stay healthy for many, many years to come. Studies show that health improves when people visit their doctors annually for preventive care. Your yearly visit will follow the same format as your initial visit, and once again you’ll get a written prevention plan.
- Depression screening – Studies estimate that as many as one in six older Americans, suffers from depression. So many health problems can result from and/or be exacerbated by depression, and that’s why Medicare covers the cost of screening for all recipients.
- Smoking cessation counseling – It’s difficult to think of any activity that correlates more closely with more serious health problems than smoking. And it’s never too late to quit smoking and improve your health, so if you smoke, please don’t wait to utilize this benefit!
- Obesity counseling – Following close on the heels of smoking as a major health problem in the U.S. is obesity. It’s estimated that more than 30% of Medicare recipients are obese. High blood pressure, stroke, heart disease, diabetes – obesity contributes to the development of so many serious illnesses. If you’re obese, Medicare will cover up to one year of counseling to help you lose weight.
- Medical nutrition therapy – I love this one. The role of nutrition in controlling the signs and symptoms of disease has been traditionally underestimated, and Medicare will pay for the services of a registered dietician, who will get you on the right track for managing your disease better by eating the right foods.
For more on this, check out the National Council on Aging’s page on Preventive Services Covered by Medicare.
Wiley Long is founder and president of Medigap Advisors, and is passionate about helping people navigate the confusing waters of Medicare. He is the author of The Medicare Playbook: Designing Your Successful Health Coverage Strategy, a clear and simple explanation so you can make the most of your Medicare coverage. For more information visit www.MediGapAdvisors.com.