Why it's important: So you can talk to your doctor and get the right preventive care and screenings.
Who needs it: Adults over age 65 on Medicare.
Good to know: If you’ve had Medicare Part B for more than 12 months, your yearly wellness visit will be paid for by Medicare.
What Is a Wellness Visit?
A wellness visit, or preventive visit, is a once-a-year chance to meet with your doctor or health care provider to create or update your prevention plan.
Why is it important?
A personal prevention plan may help prevent disease and disability because it takes into account your current health and risk factors. This is a great chance to create schedules for screenings, shots, or other preventive measures.
Who needs it?
Anyone age 65 and older. If you’ve had Medicare Part B for more than 12 months, you’re entitled to a wellness visit every year.
What to expect
Before your visit, it's a good idea to think about what you want to talk about and write a list of questions in order of importance (in case you can’t get to everything on the list). Make two copies, one for yourself and one for your doctor.
When you check in at the front desk, you may get some forms to update with any changes in your health or any new medicines you might be taking. You might also be asked to fill in information about your family members. (A family medical history can help doctors decide whether or not you need certain screenings, or whether you might need them more often than most people.)
At wellness visits or physicals you'll typically have your height, weight, and blood pressure checked. Your doctor may spend time asking about your lifestyle — the kinds of foods you eat, how much you exercise and how much sleep you get, whether you smoke or drink, when you had your last dental and vision exams, and other things that can affect your health and quality of life. Although the exact questions will vary, doctors generally cover the same topics.
Many doctors will also do a quick check of a few areas of your body during the visit (like listening to your heart and lungs). If you're due for any vaccines, such as a flu shot, you might get them in the office before you leave. In case you need any blood tests (like a cholesterol test), some offices can draw your blood at the same visit; others may give you a form to take to a lab. For any other screenings, such as a mammogram (a type of X-ray), you'll get instructions on how to schedule those.
Good to know
Most wellness visits are no longer “comprehensive physicals” that involve lots of tests. These days, wellness visits or periodic health exams are designed to find out your health risks and deliver preventive care that’s evidence-based (proved to have a benefit). If you have a newer plan under the Affordable Care Act or if you’ve had Medicare Part B for more than 12 months, these services may be available at no cost to you.
Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Preventive Visit and Yearly Wellness Exam. Last accessed February 2019.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Get Your Well-Woman Visit Every Year. Last updated August 2018.
Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Yearly Wellness Visits. Last accessed February 2019.