Who Loves You? Medicare Does!
Think of your Annual Wellness Visit as a gift to your health.
Did you know that Medicare gives you a yearly appointment to discuss your plan of preventive care for the coming 12 months? It’s called the Medicare Annual Wellness Visit (MAWV), and it’s a perk of your coverage each year. But surprisingly, many Medicare beneficiaries don’t take full advantage of it.
“It’s an opportunity to connect with our seniors and evaluate their chronic health conditions, focus on quality of life and preventive care, and provide many on-the-spot screenings,” says Kelley Prince, MD, chief medical officer at the nonprofit Torrance Memorial Independent Physicians Association (Torrance Memorial IPA). “We do it because seniors have diverse health needs, and we want to partner in the best approach to their care. There is no co-pay for this visit.”
If you’ve looked into the MAWV, you’ve seen a checklist—guidelines each provider uses to assess their patients’ needs. Dr. Prince explains, “We do a review of a patient’s medical and family history and complete a Health Risk Assessment, as well as on-the-spot screenings and vaccinations. The MAWV is also an opportunity for us to discuss advance care planning and for each patient to share their health wishes for the future. Visit medicare.gov for more details.
“We have quality measures and preventive screenings we are responsible for,” adds Lana Kwong, MPH, CPH, CPHQ, quality program manager for Torrance Memorial IPA. “It’s a great way to coordinate care and make sure our members are seeing the appropriate specialists. We do a fall risk assessment, screen for dementia and any cognitive, mental or emotional health concerns, and we help schedule mammograms and colonoscopies. As the visits are mainly done in discussion format, it doesn’t take much time.”
“During the MAWV, we’ll review a list of medications, their side effects and any other medication concerns,” Dr. Prince says. “We want to come away with a preventive plan to help our patients stay healthy and well.”
In some cases, if there is a new concern the physician might suggest a separate physical exam, which is not included in the MAWV. And that’s where some patients get confused and call the assessment a “physical.”
“If they happen to come in with an acute need, we want to make sure we address it. This might mean ordering additional testing,” Dr. Prince notes. “We also want to make sure seniors don’t miss an opportunity to meet with a health advocate to support their needs.”
So in some cases the assessment might lead to other appointments, for which there may be an out-of-pocket cost or co-pay. “But it’s always the physician’s call with the patient’s support to identify the best plan for the patient’s health needs,” Dr. Prince says.