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If you are age 65 or over, you are eligible to enroll in Medicare — and Medicare provides a multitude of preventative services and screenings at no out-of-pocket cost to you. In part one of our series on Medicare services, we'll discuss a benefit some you may not even know is available to you the annual wellness visit.

What exactly is a Medicare annual wellness visit?

The annual wellness visit is a once-a-year review and examination of your overall health. Medicare started providing annual wellness visits in 2011 as part of the Affordable Care Act. The goal of an annual wellness visit (AWV) is to provide you with personalized health care by identifying ways to improve your health and to promote preventative screenings.

Who can get a Medicare annual wellness visit?

Any Medicare beneficiary who has been receiving Medicare Part B benefits for at least 12 months and has not had an AWV within the last 12 months is eligible to receive an AWV.

How often will Medicare pay for an annual wellness visit?

Medicare will pay for an AWV once every 12 months. There are no deductibles or co-payments for an annual wellness visit.

Who performs an annual wellness visit?

Annual wellness visits can be performed by a doctor or another provider recognized by Medicare, such as a nurse practitioner a physician assistant or a nurse working under the direct supervision of a physician.

In order to meet the needs of our patients and promote health education and quality care, JCMG has launched a new division called Population Health. JCMG has a group of trained, dedicated nurses whose goal is to enhance the patient experience through collaborative care. JCMG is striving to be the community leader in overall health promotion and prevention with the patient-centric approach.

Our team's focus is the patient, and through one-on-one individualized plans of care, we can identify Medicare services available to our patients to address specific needs.

What happens during an annual wellness visit?

During an annual wellness visit, a health care professional will ask you to complete a Health Risk Assessment (HRA). Some patients may elect to complete this prior to their visit via phone or through the mail prior to your visit. Your responses provide important information to discuss with your health care professional during your annual wellness visit.

The health care professional performing your AWV may do a biometric screening, which includes blood pressure monitoring and BMI calculation. A comprehensive review of all medications will be performed with education regarding adherence patterns and purpose. The goal is to prevent medication errors and/or misuse in order to ensure safety and efficacy.

Your health care professional will also ask you questions to identify any risk factors for depression or other mood disorders, in addition to assessing you for any risk of cognitive impairment.

After the annual wellness visit: Next steps

The goal of the AWV is not just to assess your health the day of the exam, but also to identify any gaps in your care, schedule preventative screenings, and in general to work closely with you to create a personalized plan to help you improve your health. You'll leave your AWV with some of your recommended screening scheduled, along with a plan for managing your healthcare moving forward.

AWV, IPPE and visits to your doctor: Understanding the difference

It's worth noting the Medicare annual wellness visit is different than the Initial Preventative Physical Examination (IPPE). The IPPE is the "welcome to Medicare" physical; a one-time service that is always performed by your primary care physician within 12 months of Medicare enrollment. Neither the IPPE nor the AWV replace a regularly scheduled visit with your provider. This service is in addition to any normally scheduled visit, it's a service that complements your physician encounter.

Don't delay — Schedule your AWV

We encourage you to take advantage of annual wellness visits through Medicare. With help from your health care team, regularly scheduled annual wellness visits can help you stay healthier and feel better so you can enjoy your life to the fullest.

Barb Cremer is the director of Population Health Services at Jefferson City Medical Group — JCMG. She is excited to help the community learn all about the preventative health care screenings and services Medicare provides. If you would like to schedule a Medicare Annual Wellness Visit at JCMG, call JCMG Population Health at 573-556-1764.

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