Your Start to a Healthy Future Begins with a Physical Exam

By Donald Berwick, M.D., Administrator, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services

If you’re new to Medicare, take charge of your health and wellness with a thorough physical exam.

Getting an in-depth physical exam is a smart and easy way for you and your doctor to set a starting point for your personalized health care. It’s your roadmap for effective, efficient and timely health care, and it will help lower our healthcare system’s per-person costs.

Medicare covers two types of physical exams—one when you’re new to Medicare and one each year after that.

“Welcome to Medicare” physical exam

Medicare covers a one-time “Welcome to Medicare” physical exam if  you get it within the first 12 months you have Part B.  Beginning in 2011, you can get this exam for free if your doctor accepts assignment.

Your comprehensive “Welcome to Medicare” physical exam includes:

  • A review of your medical and social history including risk factors you can change
  • A physical exam that includes measuring your height, weight, blood pressure, visual acuity screen, and body mass index
  • Education, counseling, and referrals based on the results of your physical exam
  • A brief written plan, such as a checklist, for getting appropriate screening and/or other Medicare Part B preventive services
  • A review of your potential risk factors for depression

Yearly “wellness” exam

Thanks to the new healthcare law, Medicare also covers a  yearly “wellness” exam (once you’ve had Part B for longer than 12 months and if it has been at least 12 months from your “Welcome to Medicare” physical examination) which will help you develop or update a prevention plan, based on your current health and risk factors. You’ll pay nothing for the exam as long as your doctor accepts assignment (agrees to be paid directly by Medicare and accepts the amount Medicare approves for the service).

So get the most from your new Medicare benefits and stay in control of your health: Don’t delay.  Schedule your physical exam today!

NOTE: This blog was updated on January 5, 2011.