Six Little-Known Medicare Preventive Coverages Everyone Should Use

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 86 percent of people age 65 years and older have at least one chronic condition. Fortunately, Medicare provides a wide variety of excellent (and free!) little-known services that can help prevent diseases or detect them early, when treatment works best.

Senior woman visiting the doctor

Prevention and early detection of disease allows seniors to live healthier and happier lives, often making it possible for them to retain their independence and age in their own homes. Medicare’s preventive services include an exam, vaccines, health monitoring, and counseling that can help older adults age well. Here’s an overview of six preventive coverages Medicare beneficiaries may not realize they can utilize:

1. “Welcome to Medicare” preventive visit—During the first year of Medicare Part B coverage, beneficiaries can schedule a free comprehensive exam that includes a medical history and blood pressure check. It may also include a vision test and review of immunizations. The exam gives beneficiaries a full review of their health, and an idea of preventive services they can employ to stay well, such as certain disease screenings and shots. Their doctor may order further tests if needed. They should also receive a written prevention plan to follow post-checkup.

2. Annual wellness visit—After the first “Welcome to Medicare” visit, beneficiaries can see their doctor for a no-cost yearly wellness visit. The visit includes:

  • A review of medical and family history
  • Developing or updating a list of current providers and prescriptions
  • Height, weight, blood pressure, and other routine measurements
  • Detection of any cognitive impairment
  • Personalized health advice
  • A list of risk factors and treatment options
  • A screening checklist for applicable preventive services
  • (New in 2016) The option to include an advance care planning discussion

3. Depression screening—One in six older adults 65 and older suffers from depression. Many people who suffer from depression are not diagnosed or treated, which can lead to a host of other health problems—and even death. Left untreated, depression puts older adults at the highest risk of suicide for any age group in America. This screening can help diagnose symptoms and get the beneficiary started on a treatment plan.

4. Smoking cessation counseling—This service is available to anyone with Medicare who smokes, regardless of illness or symptoms. Smoking cessation counseling can help with the challenges of quitting smoking, which can significantly lower the risk for certain diseases—even if a person has smoked for years. The counseling consists of up to eight face-to-face visits during a 12-month period, as ordered by the doctor.

5. Obesity counseling—Obesity has become a major health concern in the United States. Approximately one in three Medicare beneficiaries are estimated to be obese. This screening can help with treatment to improve a person’s quality of life. If a beneficiary screens positive for obesity, Medicare will cover counseling for up to one year to help learn ways to reduce weight and improve overall health.

6. Disease screenings—Medicare covers a vast array of disease screenings. These include screenings for some of the most common and harmful diseases and conditions, including diabetes, glaucoma, HIV and other STDs (learn more at https://www.STDAware.com/geo/north-carolina/raleigh), breast and cervical cancer, colon cancer, prostate cancer, and cardiovascular heart disease.

Many other preventive services are covered at no cost by Medicare, including many immunizations and chronic disease self-management programs. To learn more about the services and screenings covered under Medicare, check out this “Preventive Services” guide.

Source: The National Council on Aging (NCOA). NCOA is a respected national leader and trusted partner to help people aged 60+ meet the challenges of aging. Its vision is a just and caring society in which each of us, as we age, lives with dignity, purpose, and security. And its goal is to improve the health and economic security of 10 million older adults by 2020.


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