Taking advantage of your annual Medicare “Wellness Visit” is a great way to protect your overall health

Many of my Baby Boomer friends seem to be the picture of good health – they eat right and exercise often. In fact, they are so healthy that they take pride in never seeing a physician.

This is a terrible mistake. With each passing year, regular medical checkups are the cornerstone of good health – in fact, the healthier you are, the more vigilant you must be about seeing your doctor.

The Federal Government has placed a greater emphasis on preventative health, expanding Medicare’s “Wellness Visit” from a one-time offer to an annual check up. In order to take full advantage of this new benefit, it is vitally important that everyone understand what should be expected in an annual medical exam.

First, in order to be considered a “wellness checkup” you should state that the purpose of the visit is for general health and that you have no major new complaints or medical problems. If, for example, you see the doctor because of sudden onset of severe pain in the back and ask that you have the wellness visit at the same time, some insurance may decline the claim. Simply put, do not wait until you are sick to have your annual physical.

As a general rule the annual physical should take about 30 to 40 minutes either with your doctor, or, as in the case of Medicare, by other health care providers such as physician assistants, advanced practice nurses, clinical nurse specialists, nurse practitioners, clinical psychologists and clinical social workers. Health educators, dietitians and nutrition specialists working under the supervision of a physician can also be involved.

Your doctor should carefully evaluate all your chronic medical conditions, which may include diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease or arthritis. Medications should be documented and analyzed, as should medical problems, surgeries and any hospital admissions you may have had in the past.

The physician should also assess your family history including: are your parents still alive? If not, what was the cause of death? Do have brothers and sisters and are they healthy? How many children do you have? Are your children healthy? Is there a family history of diabetes, cancer, heart disease or memory?

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