Have you scheduled your Medicare wellness visit yet?

Syed picQuratulain Syed, MD
Assistant Professor of Medicine
Division of General Medicine and Geriatrics
Emory University School of Medicine

Now that we are almost through 2016, I hope you haven’t all lost track of your healthy lifestyle New Year resolutions.  The Medicare annual wellness visit can help you achieve those goals.

If you enrolled in Medicare plan B within the past 12 months, you are eligible for a Welcome to Medicare preventive visit. If you have had Medicare for more than a year, you are eligible for an annual wellness visit every year (at least 11 months after the previous wellness visit).  These visits include a review of your medical history, social history related to your health and education, and counseling about preventive services, including certain screenings, shots, and referrals for services, if needed.

Here is how to prepare for the visit:

  • These visits are free of cost. However, you may have to pay Medicare a deductible or co-insurance if your healthcare provider performs additional tests or services during the same visit and those services aren’t covered under these preventive benefits.
  • Even if you are seeing your current primary care provider, remember to bring any prior medical information, including immunization records, to make sure nothing is overlooked.
  • Gather information about your family’s health history before your appointment. This will help guide discussion on the screenings you should get and the pros and cons of these tests.
  • Bring an updated list of all prescription drugs, over-the-counter drugs, vitamins, and supplements that you currently take.
  • Do you have advance directives? If you don’t have any, or if you wish to update them, write down your preferences and goals in life in order to discuss them with your healthcare provider.
  • Write down your current level of physical activity and your activity goals. Physical activity can prevent/reduce falls and improve physical strength. Having notes will allow you to have a conversation with your provider about available resources that can help you achieve these goals.
  • Be prepared to discuss any home safety concerns. If your home is in need of rails or grab bars or other modifications to meet your physical needs, you can discuss them at this visit.

Call your healthcare provider today to schedule your annual wellness visit!

2016 Medicare Open Enrollment Is Underway – Don’t Miss Out!

Shah headshotKrupa Shah, MD, MPH
Assistant Professor
University of Rochester School of Medicine & Dentistry

Medicare open enrollment only comes once a year. It is important that you mark your calendar and consider enrolling or reviewing your plans, especially if your needs have changed. Are you fully satisfied with your current medical care? If not, this is the right time to consider your options. Choosing the right healthcare providers, hospitals, and other care settings can make all the difference in your health and satisfaction with life. You can’t stand still, though.

Who is eligible for Medicare?

  • You are eligible if you are:

1) a US citizen 65 years old or older, or

2) a permanent resident of the US for five continuous years and 65 years old or older.

  • Individuals younger than 65 years old can be eligible for Medicare under certain circumstances; the Medicare Eligibility Calculator can help determine if your situation qualifies you for Medicare.

Open enrollment for Medicare runs from October 15th to December 7th.

  • Your demand for health care is constantly changing. It is important for you to review your coverage and see if you need to make any changes to your coverage for the upcoming year.
  • If you are happy with your current coverage, there is no need to do anything.

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Celebrating the Medicare #DocFix

Photo credit: David W. Parke II, MD

Photo credit: David W. Parke II, MD

This week, I made a pilgrimage to Washington DC to attend a reception in the White House Rose Garden at the invitation of President Obama. It was a heady moment for this new CEO of the American Geriatrics Society and the Health in Aging Foundation. My 91-year old mother and her friends were quite impressed–going so far as to ask me to put in a good word for older adults. Got that covered, Mom.

Putting aside the excitement of seeing the Rose Garden and shaking President Obama’s hand (I admit shaking a President’s hand is really exciting), why was this moment so important for geriatrics health professionals and the older adults they serve? Congress, in a rare bi-partisan, bicameral moment, had passed The Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act and President Obama signed it into law April 16, 2015.

I won’t go into all the details of the bill here—nor will I try to explain the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR), which may be what you heard a lot about in the news related to this legislation. Suffice it to say, this new legislation finally fixes a huge problem for geriatrics health professionals and the older adults they serve.

Geriatrics health professionals are specially trained to care for older adults (learn more about these professionals here; we can even help you find one here). Having benefited from their expertise as a family caregiver, I know first hand how different it is to partner with someone with this kind of training when caring for my loved ones. They always start the care process by considering what matters to older patients and their families as people, and then work back to how they can help you get there.

Geriatrics healthcare professionals are pretty much wholly paid by Medicare, so a looming cut in payment of more than 20% annually is a big deal when you still have practice expenses to pay (that’s what these health professionals faced under the old SGR system). We don’t often talk about the business of medicine, but if you are in private practice you have expenses just like any other business. These include rent, staff (most geriatrics health professionals work in teams), equipment, supplies; malpractice insurance and your own health insurance. Like any other business, a sharp drop in revenue could endanger your ability to provide services. And that, in a nutshell, was the broader threat of the old SGR formula. With a stroke of the President’s pen, that threat is gone.

President Obama addressing reception attendees.

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