Medical technology is advancing at an incredible rate, and patients young and old are recovering from diseases that were death sentences just a few decades ago. Even so, prevention is still far better than cure. People are living longer, but not necessarily healthier, and it’s critical that current and soon-to-be retirees preserve their well-being by proactively managing risk factors.
Fortunately, the Affordable Care Act has provided for several preventive health measures for Medicare recipients. The ACA reduces or eliminates out-of-pocket costs for a variety of life-saving screenings, and patients now enjoy increased access to their doctors before they get sick.
Whereas patients used to receive only a one-time “Welcome to Medicare” visit during their first year of coverage, they now receive an annual wellness visit with a primary care provider at no out-of-pocket cost. While not a full physical, each of these visits involves a comprehensive health risk assessment. Physicians question patients on their recent injuries and urgent needs, but they also discuss risk factors that could contribute to chronic diseases. These risk factors are compiled into patient records along with family and medical histories, which doctors then use to create screening schedules for their patients.
In most cases, Medicare also covers those subsequent screenings. “The great thing for Medicare recipients is that they’re going to provide all preventive screenings at no out-of-pocket cost,” said Shelley Alexander, osteopathic doctor and owner of New You Health Studio in Leawood, Kansas. While Medicare beneficiaries once had to pay 20% for most preventive services, the program now covers screenings for cancer, depression, obesity, diabetes and a host of other chronic illnesses.
In addition to these screenings, Medicare also now covers counseling, cessation and coaching programs for patients who need to alter their lifestyles. These programs include tobacco cessation, alcohol counseling and even nutritional consultations for people with diabetes and other special dietary needs.