A healthy living blog from Marshfield Clinic Health System

Medicare Annual Wellness Visit vs annual check-up: What’s the difference?

Senior woman reading a book - Medicare Annual Wellness Visit, adult checkups

Schedule your Annual Wellness Visit each year.

You are probably familiar with the concept of a yearly check-up. It may be surprising to learn that before the Affordable Care Act, Medicare didn’t officially cover a yearly check-up. The good news is Medicare now covers something similar – an Annual Wellness Visit.

“The Medicare Annual Wellness Visit has some unique qualities compared to traditional checkups for the non-Medicare population,” said Dr. Sumeet Goel, a Marshfield Clinic Health System family medicine physician.

Preventive health needs change with age

The Medicare Annual Wellness Visit typically consists of a general health questionnaire, which looks for issues with memory, mental health, safety, nutrition or social supports. Your provider also reviews your medical history, medication list and ensures preventive services are up-to-date.

Sometimes this visit is even completed without physically seeing your primary care provider,” Goel said. Your provider works with your health care team to conduct your wellness visit. A nurse might provide your care instead of your doctor during a time that is convenient for you.

In previous check-ups, you may have had your primary care provider conduct a head-to-toe physical exam and give you the opportunity to address other concerns with your health. These are not included within Medicare’s Annual Wellness Visit, but can be conducted with a regular office visit on the same day as your Annual Wellness Visit appointment.

Why is a Medicare Annual Wellness Visit important?

“The Medicare Annual Wellness Visit is a unique visit that holds tremendous value for patients,” Goel said. “It approaches health from multiple vantage points that are particularly important for seniors. It detects issues sooner than we can during a traditional office visit – such as problems with memory, nutrition or safety.”

If you are on Medicare, each year, contact your primary care provider to schedule an Annual Wellness Visit with your health care team.

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