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Plan for a Healthy New Year

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Happy New Year! As you enter tasks on your 2016 calendar, one of the best things you can do is to schedule an annual visit with your doctor or other licensed health care provider. Health maintenance is the key to prevention. And a good doctor-patient relationship is central to quality health care, which should include supporting your health goals.

If you’re young—as some of our readers are—you would probably benefit from an annual visit with your doctor. But the focus of this article is a free benefit that older family members and friends may receive under Medicare—a free Annual Wellness Visit.

Bellevue Network on Aging

Bellevue Network on Aging representative Diana Thompson (left), ADS Advisory Council member Tony Provine, and Advisory Council chair Molly Holmes joined forces in Olympia’s marble halls on Senior Lobby Day in a previous year.

If you have been enrolled in Medicare Part B for more than 12 months and 11 months have passed following the month in which you had your Initial Preventive Physical Examination or your last Annual Wellness Visit, it’s time to schedule an Annual Wellness Visit. These visits are fully covered—no out-of-pocket costs, no insurance, no co-payment, and no Medicare Part B deductible.

The Annual Wellness Visit is not a physical exam but a conversation with your doctor with the goal of producing a personalized prevention plan. Your doctor will work with you to:

  • Update your personal medical history, including a review of medications and supplements you may take
  • Update your family health history
  • Record routine measurements (e.g., height, weight, Body Mass Index, blood pressure) that can affect your health
  • Review potential risk factors (e.g., diabetes, depression)
  • Review your functional ability and level of safety (e.g., risk of falls)
  • Update your schedule of screenings and tests over the next 5–10 years
  • Determine necessary lifestyle changes and/or treatment options

The Annual Wellness Visit is not the same as a “routine physical checkup.” Medicare does not cover routine physical examinations. Medicare does recognize that it’s less expensive to help someone stay healthy than to treat them when they’re sick. For more information, visit the Medicare.gov website.

In preparing for your wellness visit, I recommend that you take a list of all medications and over-the-counter supplements that you currently take. Or put them all in a bag and take them with you. Your doctor (or your pharmacist) can tell you if the meds you take are the best option for you at this time. It’s a good idea to review them every year.

It also helps to list all of your health care providers as well as questions you would like to ask your doctor. To get started, download or print a Personal Health Record from the Aging and Disability Services website (click here).

Plan for a healthy new year by scheduling
your Annual Wellness Visit today.


Contributor Molly Holmes is the new chair of the Seattle-King County Advisory Council on Aging & Disability Services, which publishes AgeWise King County. Molly welcomes input from readers via e-mail (advisorychair@agewisekingcounty.org) as well as applicants for open positions on the council. For more information, visit www.agingkingcounty.org/advisory-council.

stay-connectedThe Seattle-King County Advisory Council on Aging & Disability Services meets monthly, except January and October. In January, the Advisory Council holds a retreat. In October, the Advisory Council attends a statewide gathering of Area Agencies on Aging with the State Council on Aging. Our next regular meeting is on Friday, February 12, 2016. If you are interested in joining the Advisory Council, visit our How to Join webpage or contact Aging and Disability Services planner Gigi Meinig at 206-684-0652 or gigi.meinig@seattle.gov.

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