In 2011, as part of the Affordable Care Act, Medicare Part B recipients were guaranteed a physical exam every year. The Medicare Annual Wellness Visit (AWV) is meant to help senior citizens maintain their quality of life and look at preventative measures for healthcare issues that commonly afflict the elderly.
Unfortunately, this program is still not being utilized as much as possible, largely because many people don’t know about it. But here’s the lowdown on the program and how you can benefit the most from your annual check-up:
Who Is Eligible For An AWV?
The AWV is available to anyone who has been enrolled in Medicare Part B for at least a year. The exam begins with a conversation with your doctor. They will help you fill out a Health Risk Assessment, a kind of survey that covers your past health problems as well as your family medical history.
Your doctor will then take some basic measurements (height, weight, blood pressure) and use this to calculate your body mass index (BMI) to see if you have a weight problem. They will also do basic tests for problems that tend to plague senior citizens, like vision and hearing tests as well as balance tests. The doctor will also perform a couple of tests meant to gauge mental and emotional stability such as a memory test to check cognitive impairment and a depression screening to see if you may need assistance dealing with this.
How To Maximize Your AWV
In order to get the most out of these screenings (or really any appointment with your doctor), there are a few things that you can do.
Keep a notebook with a running list of all your medications, medical procedures, and medical conditions so you can refer to this during the meeting and not have to struggle to recall everything. In addition, add questions to the notebook of things you would like to ask the doctor.
Be sure to ask follow-up questions. If your doctor suggests a procedure or new medication, ask him exactly what the procedure entails and if the medicine has any side effects you should know about. Also, talk to your doctor about alternatives to these procedures that might be more in line with your comfort level.
Bring an advocate. If you are really nervous about talking to doctors, then bring along a friend or family member who can advocate for you during the visit.
Your health is very important to you and these annual check-ups are imperative in keeping you active and maintaining your quality of life. With some early preparation, you can be ready for your appointment so that you can get the most out of it.