Medicare helps cover in-hospital stays, doctor visits, and prescription drugs for adults 65 and older. But some of its most lucrative benefits are also the most rarely used. It offers a number of preventive screenings, counseling, and other services, in many cases at no extra charge, to help you better manage your health and improve your quality of life without straining your budget. Here are five of these benefits that you should consider taking advantage of.
1. Annual wellness visits
Medicare recipients are entitled to one free wellness visit per year. Your doctor will evaluate your weight, blood pressure, and general health. You can also be assessed for signs of Alzheimer's or dementia.
These checkups can make you aware of health problems before they become serious, so you can correct them. Understanding your health risks and making a few simple lifestyle changes could be the difference between remaining healthy into your old age or incurring large medical expenses for preventable illnesses.
2. Obesity and smoking counseling
Smoking and obesity are key contributors to heart disease and diabetes. Smoking can also lead to lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and many other illnesses. These conditions can cost you a fortune in medical treatments and prescriptions drugs -- and more importantly may shorten your life.
Under Medicare, you can seek professional counseling for these conditions. But there are restrictions. Obesity counseling is only free for adults with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more. And while Medicare will pay for smoking cessation counseling, it doesn't cover the cost of nicotine patches, lozenges, or gum to help you stop smoking.
3. Hospice care
You may qualify for free hospice care if you're given six months or less to live. This can ease the burden on your family's finances while still making your final days comfortable. Medicare sets limits, though, on what types of facilities qualify for hospice care coverage.
In addition to caring for your physical well being during this time, Medicare will also cover grief counseling for you and your family members so you can all come to terms with the impending loss.
4. Disease screenings
Medicare will pay for disease screenings if your doctor determines you're at risk for diabetes, heart disease, hepatitis B or C, HIV, or certain types of cancers. You'll have to pay for some of the treatment out of pocket if it turns out you have one of these diseases, but you don't have to put off going to the doctor to be tested just because of the cost. Your prognosis with many of these diseases is better when detected earlier, so take advantage of these free screenings if you believe you're at risk for one of these health problems.
Medicare will also pay for a hearing exam if your doctor says it's medically necessary. But if it's something you're doing of your own choosing, you'll have to pay for the exam yourself.
5. Some medical equipment
Medicare covers some durable medical equipment, including wheelchairs, oxygen tanks, blood sugar monitors, walkers, and even hospital beds. Oddly, it overlooks one of the most commonly used pieces of durable medical equipment: hearing aids. Medicare doesn't cover these at all, so you must pay for them out of pocket or seek other types of coverage that can help you pay the costs.
Everyone likes taking advantage of free services. And some of these Medicare services listed above could help you save money, live a longer and healthier life, and prevent future expensive medical bills. Take advantage of the annual wellness visit if you haven't already, and ask your doctor about any of the other services mentioned here that may apply to you.