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Welcome to Medicare exams can boost quality of life

As we age, we may focus on negatives such as new aches and pains. But age also brings some advantages, including time and resources that can help us focus on our health and quality of life.

Upon enrolling into Medicare Part B at age 65, beneficiaries are eligible for a once-in-a-lifetime examination. This “Welcome to Medicare” visit must occur during the first 12 months of enrollment and is free; the patient does not pay a fee, and the visit is not subject to a deductible. 

Community HealthCare System, or CHCS, staff look forward to working with patients at these special visits.

“Welcome to Medicare visits identify health concerns early on,” said Pat Flentie, LPN and lead nurse at Onaga Clinic.

“We basically cover the patient from head to toe and everything in between,” Flentie said.

The 60- to 90-minute, “hands-off” visit is a personalized discussion that focuses on health history, assessing risk factors for disease, current medications, and wishes regarding medical treatment. Your healthcare team will help you learn how to manage chronic conditions, prevent progression of symptoms, address safety issues and prevent injuries, and recommend appropriate screenings, tests, or immunizations. Additional testing or services may include a mammogram, colonoscopy, low-dose CT scan, or physical or occupational therapy. Staff will also talk to you about the stresses and concerns of everyday life.

That last step is what Susan Tanking, LPN at the Holton Clinic, likes best about working with her patients.

“I like their stories. It’s a privilege and an honor to hear what they have to say. For example, I’ve learned about people who served in Vietnam or have lost children or survived tragedies. I see how their faces light up when they talk about their grandkids, great-, or great-great grandkids,” Tanking said.

Building a personal relationship with patients helps CHCS see the whole picture of their health needs. Learning about life and health challenges, specialist visits, medications, and day-to-day joys and difficulties helps providers and nurses make sure patients’ needs are met.

“The conversation often lends to further information about stresses and concerns in a patient’s life that may be affecting their health,” Flentie said.

After the visit, your provider will give you a written plan that outlines recommendations and a plan for future care. In addition to the initial visit, Medicare Part B enrollees over the age of 66 are eligible for a free Annual Wellness Examination after being enrolled for one year. Components of this visit are similar to the Welcome to Medicare Exam and offer an opportunity to alert the provider to any changes in your health and integrate information from specialists you may have visited through the year. 

Many people don’t take advantage of these free services offered by Medicare because they don’t know about the benefit.

Michele Reisinger, CHCS advanced practice nurse practitioner, said providers are eager to help. “We don’t want to see you only when you are sick! Providers want Medicare enrollees to learn about their Welcome to Medicare benefits and work with them to maintain their health. Only recognizing illness and disease is a thing of the past,” she said.

“Educating Medicare-aged individuals in the preventive screening of disease states and management of chronic disease assists in prolonging their life and enhancing quality of life,” Reisinger said.

If you are age 65 and would like to schedule a Welcome to Medicare visit with Community HealthCare System, or if you are over the age of 65 and would like to schedule an Annual Medicare Wellness Examination, call one of our seven clinics directly, or dial 1-800-531-9151.

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