Washington, Mo. – Medicare is offering a preventative benefit to its members, and Mercy Clinic physicians are encouraging patients to take advantage of it.
“Traditional medicine has been that we diagnose and treat illness when you get sick and now health care is moving toward a prevention system,” said Mercy Clinic President David Chalk, MD. “We’re talking more frequently about what keeps us healthy – the right nutrition, the right exercise, better mental health, avoiding carcinogens – and learning how to manage those things we’re genetically predisposed to.”
Annual Wellness Visits were established in 2011 as part of the Affordable Health Care Act. The visit is designed to promote good health, begin screening and preventive services and detect diseases early.
“By seeing a medical professional annually for an individualized assessment, you and your health care team are working together to identify your personal risks and take action to prevent them or catch them at their earliest stages, when they’re most likely to respond to treatment,” said Dr. Chalk.
Annual Wellness Visits are provided by Medicare at no cost. All Medicare beneficiaries are eligible, but there is a process. Newly enrolled beneficiaries need to have an initial preventative physical with their primary care physician during their first year. After that, they can start their annual wellness visits.
Physicians will ask patients about Annual Wellness Visits, or patients can request one. The Annual Wellness Visit takes about 45 minutes, so it usually needs to be scheduled separate from a regular office visit. Also, the visit can be scheduled with a doctor, nurse practitioner or registered nurse. Patients should come to the appointment with some general information, including a list of medications, health history, family health history and all health concerns and symptoms.
During the annual wellness visit, patients will complete a Health Risk Assessment, questionnaire, go over any screenings, review preventive tips and offer a discharge sheet with recommendations. If a patient needs testing, Mercy Clinic offices can help schedule them at Mercy locations. Costs associated with testing and other services following the Annual Wellness Visit are subject to Medicare coverage.
“The value of the annual wellness exam is that they can raise awareness about risk factors and prevention, which can ultimately stave off or lessen the severity of disease like diabetes, heart disease and even some cancers. It’s a potentially life-saving tool.”
For information about Medicare, call 1-800-Medicare (1-800-633-4227) or visit www.social security.gov. If you don’t have a primary care physician and want to see a Mercy Clinic physician, visit Mercy.net to search for a doctor by specialty and location.