What’s a Medicare Wellness Visit?
One of the highly publicized benefits of the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) for Medicare subscribers is the “annual wellness visit” feature that kicked in in 2011.
I know I made the mistake of assuming – and may have even written somewhere on this blog — that “wellness visit” was just a government bureaucrat’s name for a physical. Then recently I talked to a Medicare subscriber who actually had a wellness visit. Unfortunately a Medicare wellness visit is like a physical only in that you talk to a doctor or nurse for a while. You’re never asked to say “ahhh” and you’re never touched with a stethoscope. For guys, you are never asked to “assume the position” or turn your head and cough.
From the description I heard, a wellness visit sounded more like applying for insurance coverage than a physical. So I made a note to follow-up and set the record straight. Then — senior moment — I never followed up. But Betsy Cliff of the the Bend, Oregon Bulletin is all over the story. Of course her article is written from an Oregon perspective but the facts she outlines agree with what I heard. I think we’ll begin to see a lot of national coverage on this issue, maybe even someone from the Herald, Telegram, Republican or Globe will pick up on it. (Or maybe Martha, although this story doesn’t fit her station’s age demographic.)
So — as I currently understand it – before PPACA, only your first physical after joining Medicare was covered. Annual physicals were not covered by Medicare the way they are in many insurance plans for non seniors. The bad news is that that both statements are still the case. First physical is covered but annual physicals are still not covered in Medicare. But there are other new Medicare features in PPACA such as screening tests (e.g., mamography, colonoscopy, ironically PSA, etc.) that also received a lot of publicity. To the best of my knowledge, they are being delivered as adverstised.