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A strong relationship with your health care provider is critical to your overall health and well-being. Annual physical exams are important for everyone at any age. But for those on Medicare, the Annual Wellness Visit is equally important. The two sound the same, but they are quite different.

The Annual Wellness Visit is not a complete physical exam. Simply put, your annual physical exam is a hands-on exam to determine if you have any observable problems — ones that your provider can see, hear or feel.

The Annual Wellness Visit is not an exam, but rather an extended conversation with your health care provider to review the big picture to help ensure your health care needs are met.

It is an opportunity to create and update a personalized prevention plan with your primary care provider, working together as a team. The visit starts with a health risk assessment and can also include:

A review of your family medical history.

Developing or updating a list of current providers and prescriptions.

Height, weight, blood pressure and other routine measurements.

Screen for any cognitive impairment.

Personalized health advice.

A list of risk factors and treatment options.

A screening schedule (like a checklist) for appropriate preventive service.

Advance care planning.

You pay nothing for this visit if your primary care provider accepts Medicare, or if they are a network provider with your Medicare Advantage Plan, and you have been on Medicare Part B for longer than 12 months. Also, because the visit is not a physical exam, it can be conducted virtually as a telehealth visit from the comfort of your own home.

“Your Annual Wellness Visit is a vital benefit that keeps you and your primary care provider on the same page with your health,” said Mythili Ransdell, MD, from Samaritan Medical Clinics in Albany. “The fact that Medicare pays the full cost of these visits is a good indication that they deem them an important and effective way to prevent disease, and I agree. I always like a chance for some quality time with my patients when they are not sick or injured. It helps me set a baseline for when they have more pressing needs.”

If you haven’t talked to your primary care provider about an Annual Wellness Visit, call and ask about it today. It’s a conversation worth having.

If you don’t have a primary care provider, contact Samaritan Health Services Find-A-Doctor for assistance at 800-863-5241 or samhealty.org/FindaDoc.

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