Medicare Offers Free Annual Wellness Exams

Medicare recipients at ThedaCare Physicians-Waupaca providers can take advantage of free annual Medicare Wellness Visit.

“The purpose of Medicare Wellness Visit is to help identify important health risks for Medicare patients,” said Darcy Schoenick, coding and auditing specialist at ThedaCare Physicians-Waupaca providers. “This is truly a great benefit for the patient.”

Beginning January 1, 2011, Medicare began offering the annual wellness visit to Medicare recipients, which was a service Medicare did not offer up to that point. It had offered just a free welcome exam. The free exam is available every 12 months.

Schoenick said many patients have taken advantage of the new service since it was first offered last year. “We’ve really seen an abundance of these visits,” she said.

During the Medicare Wellness Visit, the doctor measures the patient's height, weight, body mass and blood pressure and perhaps listens to his or her heart. The rest of the visit includes a dialogue with the patient about their medical and family history, any physical or mental impairments, and risk factors for potential diseases such as diabetes and depression. The doctor also establishes a schedule for future care, and may refer the patient for other tests and screenings, many of which are now free under Medicare

Most ThedaCare Waupaca providers also include a physical exam as part of the Medicare Wellness Visit, which Medicare does not require. “This additional service is provided at no additional charge to the patient,” said Schoenick.

However, if during the visit the focus shifts from a wellness visit to the diagnosis of a new condition, the Medicare Wellness Visit then changes to a regular Medicare visit and the patient could be charged as if it were a regular Medicare visit. In this case, the free wellness exam could be rescheduled to another time. “Providers may reschedule the Medicare wellness exam for a later date so that they may address and treat immediate health concerns,” said Schoenick. Providers may also discuss with patients rescheduling the Wellness Visit if there are many ongoing chronic health concerns to care for at the visit, such as diabetes, heart disease, and/or depression.

Contact your local Medicare carrier if you have further question regarding your Medicare or Medicare Advantage Plan Benefits.

The free Medicare Wellness Visit is for patients who are established with ThedaCare–Waupaca providers. However, if you are not established with one of our providers, we have several providers who are accepting new patients. Please call 715-256-3000 to schedule your Medicare Wellness Visit with your established provider or to establish a provider.