Promoting health and well-being can help prevent disease. Preventive healthcare is essential throughout life but especially so as people grow older.

Medicare offers a “Welcome to Medicare” preventive healthcare visit to all new enrollees. During this visit, a doctor will review an individual’s current state of health and medical history. They will also offer healthcare information.

This article discusses what the “Welcome to Medicare” visit covers, the differences between this visit and annual wellness visits (AWVs), and other forms of preventive care that Medicare provides.

a woman having a blood pressure test as part of her welcome to medicare physicalShare on Pinterest
A doctor may measure blood pressure as part of a ‘Welcome to Medicare’ physical.

When a person enrolls in Medicare Part B, they have the option of scheduling a “Welcome to Medicare” physical checkup. This health check is optional and can take place at any time during the initial 12 months of joining Medicare.

The “Welcome to Medicare” physical is not the same as a detailed annual physical exam. Medicare parts A and B do not cover this kind of health service.

The “Welcome to Medicare” physical allows a person to meet with their primary care provider and discuss any health concerns.

The doctor will perform a health test and, if necessary, create a plan of care. The goal of this visit is to promote wellness and prevent possible future illness by highlighting risk factors.

Medicare Part B completely covers the cost of the “Welcome to Medicare” physical visit, providing the individual uses a participating health service provider.

There is no deductible or coinsurance. However, if the doctor needs to treat a new or existing condition during the visit, Medicare may charge for this.

The “Welcome to Medicare” physical is an initial visit that provides the doctor with baseline measurements for monitoring a person’s health.

Healthcare professionals use these initial measurements for comparison in subsequent AWVs or other visits to assess someone’s ongoing health status.

During the visit, the doctor will take a range of measurements, including:

The doctor will also assess the person’s mental health and their ability to function safely in the home and wider community.

In addition to this basic examination, the doctor will also ask questions regarding the person’s family history of certain conditions and their personal medical history.

These questions may cover:

  • any previous illnesses, conditions, or surgical procedures
  • diseases or conditions that family members have experienced
  • lifestyle factors, such as diet, exercise, smoking, and alcohol use
  • any medications and dietary supplements

This information allows the doctor to determine any risk factors for future illnesses or conditions. They can then recommend appropriate screening measures or further tests.

The doctor can also schedule appointments for routine preventive care, including:

  • cancer screenings
  • immunizations
  • male and female health checks

Depending on the individual’s needs, the doctor also may provide education and counseling for specific health conditions or referrals to other healthcare professionals.

Typically, the doctor will also talk to the person about advance directives. An advance directive is a legal document that contains information about the healthcare that someone would want to receive if their illness or condition prevented them from speaking for themselves or making their own decisions.

Usually, a person will name someone who could make medical decisions on their behalf. Creating an advance directive helps make sure that healthcare professionals understand an individual’s future healthcare wishes.

Both the “Welcome to Medicare” physical and the AWVs aim to keep track of an individual’s health. They are similar health assessments, but they are separate services.

The “Welcome to Medicare” physical only takes place during the initial 12 months of enrolling. It is a one-time health assessment.

After someone has had Medicare Part B for more than 12 months, they can have an AWV each year. During these visits, the person will complete a “Health Risk Assessment” test.

The doctor may also perform a cognitive impairment test to look for any early signs of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.

The doctor will use all this information to form a personalized illness prevention plan. The goal of this plan is to prevent future illnesses or conditions based on a person’s health and potential risk factors.

On each subsequent AWV, the doctor and the individual will update the illness prevention plan to include any new information. The plan evolves with the person to uphold their health needs.

An individual does not have to pay for an AWV. There is no Part B deductible. However, as with the “Welcome to Medicare” visit, if the doctor orders additional tests or services, there may be coinsurance to cover, and the Part B deductible may apply.

Preventive care aims to prevent disease. It helps detect health concerns so that a person can seek treatment before a condition causes issues.

Medicare covers a range of preventive services and screening tests.

Screening tests include those for:

Medicare also covers some vaccinations, including those for:

People enrolled in Medicare can also access a range of counseling services, therapies, and lifestyle training, including:

  • alcohol misuse counseling
  • cardiovascular disease behavioral therapy
  • diabetes self-management training
  • nutrition therapy services
  • obesity counseling
  • STI counseling
  • tobacco use counseling

The “Welcome to Medicare” visit takes place during the first year of a person’s Medicare coverage. It offers the individual an opportunity to discuss their state of health with their doctor and create a preventive healthcare plan.

Medicare covers the cost of this visit but does not cover additional laboratory tests or any necessary treatments.

Medicare may also cover routine vaccinations, certain screening tests, and other preventive measures.