The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released a new report showing that more than 5 million Americans with traditional Medicare ‚Äì or nearly one in six people with Medicare ‚Äì took advantage of one or more of the recommended preventive benefits now available for free because of the Affordable Care Act.¬† ¬†Medicare wants to raise awareness about all of the important preventive benefits now covered at no charge to patients, including the new Annual Wellness Visit benefit created by the Affordable Care Act.¬†¬†
¬†‚ÄúI am committed to ensuring that the Medicare beneficiaries we serve are aware of and take advantage of their Medicare preventive benefits.‚Äù Assistant Secretary for Aging Kathy Greenlee.
According to the report, over 5.5 million beneficiaries in traditional Medicare used one or more of the preventive benefits now covered. The covered services do not have co pays and include mammograms, bone density screenings, and screenings for prostate cancer.¬†
In 2011, Medicare began covering an Annual Wellness Visit at no cost to Medicare beneficiaries.¬† As part of that visit, beneficiaries and their physicians can review the patient‚Äôs health and develop a personalized wellness plan.¬† Over 780,000 beneficiaries received an Annual Wellness Visit between January 1 and June 10. Additionally, more seniors have used the Welcome to Medicare Exam this year. The Welcome to Medicare is a one-time preventive health exam available to enrollees in the first 12 months they have Part B.¬† 66,302 beneficiaries had taken advantage of the benefit by the end of May 2011, compared to 52,654 beneficiaries at the same point in 2010 ‚Äì a 26 percent increase.
The new annual wellness visit can help spark the beginning of an ongoing conversation between patients and their doctors on how to prevent disease and disability.¬† Patients should take advantage of this time by reviewing their histories and making sure their primary care doctor knows about their other providers and prescriptions. They can also talk about the pros and cons of getting an influenza, pneumococcal or hepatitis B vaccination, or find out whether a diabetes test, a bone mass measurement, or any of several cancer screenings would be right for them.¬† Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, Medicare now covers many of these services without cost to patients.