Understanding the Importance of Annual Wellness Visits
One of the most common misconceptions in medical care is the belief by some patients that they should only see a doctor if they have a specific condition or symptom they need addressed.
In fact, regularly seeing your doctor when you are in good health is one of the most important things a patient can do to improve their care. For Medicare Part B recipients, Annual Wellness Visits allow doctors to better understand your unique health signifiers (like blood pressure, weight and heart rate) when you are in good health and give them a better frame of reference in the event you later become ill. Additionally, these early checks can help you and your doctor identify potential future health hazards and develop strategies to manage these risk factors before they become serious problems. Best of all, this service is FREE for many patients aged 65 or older who have Medicare Part B plans.
This article discusses what services are offered at an Annual Wellness Visit and how you can receive this great benefit.
Your First Medicare Preventive Visit
Within your first year of Medicare eligibility (normally at age 65), you are entitled to a free “Welcome to Medicare” preventive visit. This doctor’s visit gives your provider insights into your overall state of health, your family medical history and possible risk factors for future health problems. This assessment also provides patients with a multi-year checklist of shots, screenings and other medical services they should pursue to maintain their health, as well as the opportunity to discuss Advanced Directives, or guidelines for your medical care in the event you can no longer speak for yourself.
With this information gathered, you and your medical provider will share a clearer picture of your overall well being and serve as a baseline for future care in the event you have a more acute illness later on.
Annual Wellness Follow Up Visits
Whether or not you take advantage of your “Welcome to Medicare” visit, all Medicare Part B recipients are entitled to Annual Wellness Visits provided they have participated in Medicare Part B for 12 months.
These visits are NOT a complete physical and do not cover many tests performed during a normal physical, but are instead designed to provide you and your doctor with the most up-to-date picture of your overall health and keep you on track to receive any and all additional services you will need to stay healthy. Think of this visit more as medical survey, rather than a full-fledged investigation.
When you reach the doctor’s office, you will be asked to complete a Health Risks Assessment questionnaire. This document will help identify possible health concerns and guide your conversation with your doctor. With this step complete, you and your doctor will take the following steps:
- A review of your medical and family history
- Developing or updating a list of current providers and prescriptions
- Height, weight, blood pressure, and other routine measurements
- Detection of any cognitive impairment
- Personalized health advice
- A list of risk factors and treatment options for you
- A screening schedule (like a checklist) for appropriate preventive services.
- Advance Care Planning (A discussion of Advanced Directives)
- Suggestions or referrals to specialists who can help you manage your health risk factors
Billing for Your Annual Wellness Visit
As stated at the start of this article, Annual Wellness Visits are meant as free benefit for Medicare Part B recipients. However, in order to receive this benefit, it important that the patient make sure the visit is properly coded and understands the limitations of this offer.
Your doctor’s billing office should file your Wellness Visit in the Healthcare Common Procedure Coding System (HCPCS) as either G0438 for your initial visit, or G0439 if you have made a Wellness Visit in the past.
It is also important to note that your Annual Wellness Visit does NOT include any additional testing like an electrocardiogram or blood work. If you accept these services, billing will be run through your current health coverage plan and any additional copayments will be the responsibility of the patient.
SelectCare Home Care Services hope you found this article useful and will consider taking advantage of this free service every year. Understanding how your body functions when healthy is key to making speedy recoveries in the event of an illness, and ensuring your medical provider has a full understanding of the various medications and other healthcare providers you rely on ensure your medical team will work in concert to get you feeling better faster.
Our home health care experts are always looking for ways to connect our community to vital resources and help our clients live happily and healthily in their long-time homes. To learn more about SelectCare, call us or request a free home health care guide today.