If you're a senior covered by Medicare, it's important to be aware of coverage limitations so you can plan to save enough for your healthcare needs during retirement. But you shouldn't focus only on the limitations.
Medicare provides many services that are covered in full, with no co-insurance costs, and many of these key services help you stay healthy. You owe it to yourself to take the very best care possible with your health as you get older, and that means taking advantage of these three key Medicare services that come at no cost to you.
1. Annual "wellness" exams
Seeing a doctor regularly is key to identifying and treating minor health issues before they become major health issues. Fortunately, Medicare has you covered. Within the first 12 months of obtaining Medicare Part B, you're entitled to a "Welcome to Medicare" exam during which you can have your vitals measured, including height, weight, blood pressure and body mass index (BMI). A simple vision test, a depression screening, and referrals for other services are also a key part of your welcome visit, and your doctor will also talk with you about covered preventative services as well as discussing the benefits of advanced directives for healthcare.
You're also allowed one annual wellness visit, which must take place at least 11 months after your prior wellness exam. Your annual visit will include similar services to your initial welcome visit, and your doctor will also help you update your current list of prescriptions and care providers.
There is no cost for this visit or the advice you receive, but you could face co-insurance costs if the doctor performs additional tests or treatments that are not part of the basic screenings. If you are concerned about eliminating any costs, let your care provider know up front that you don't want any services that are not going to be covered in full .
2. Screening for serious conditions
Many conditions are more easily treatable if caught early than if allowed to advance. That's why Medicare covers disease screenings in addition to your annual wellness exam. There is a long list of screenings that are covered, including screenings for cardiovascular disease, alcohol abuse, depression, diabetes, glaucoma, hepatitis C, and HIV.
Mammograms and other cancer screenings are also covered, including screenings for lung cancer, cervical cancer, vaginal cancer, colorectal cancer, and prostate cancer. A bone mass measurement can also be taken annually for free to determine your bone density, and you can receive no-cost obesity screening and weight-loss counseling, if necessary .
3. Care that helps you stay healthy
In addition to exams and screenings designed to help you catch serious health issues early, you can also take advantage of free services designed to help stave off problems. Flu shots, hepatitis B shots, and pneumococcal shots are among the different vaccines you can obtain at no cost through Medicare. You can also sign up for counseling to quit smoking if you are a tobacco user.
To take advantage of these or other free services, you'll need to obtain care through a licensed doctor or other Medicare-recognized practitioner. You must make sure your caregiver accepts "assignment," which means the caregiver has agreed to obtain payment directly from Medicare and to charge you nothing above-and-beyond the fee that Medicare pays.
Many physicians and caregivers accept Medicare payments and will be willing to provide this potentially life-saving care, so take advantage of these free services every year once you are a senior covered by Medicare.