If you have Medicare or will soon, you probably know the basics of what it covers. But how much do you know about all the lesser-known benefits that are included with Medicare health insurance coverage?
They aren’t exactly free, because Medicare isn’t free. But these included services have no out-of-pocket costs for many Medicare beneficiaries.
There are some caveats. For example, there may be limitations on frequency, and your health care provider must accept Medicare’s payment conditions. Still, it’s worth knowing these benefits are in your pocket if you have Original Medicare, which is one of the two main types of Medicare plans.
Costs may differ for Medicare Advantage plans — the other main type of Medicare plan — because they are offered by private insurers and generally come with their own set of benefits, as we explain further in “7 Facts You Need to Know About Medicare.”
1. Annual wellness visit
The purpose of the annual wellness visit is to develop or update a personalized plan to help prevent disease and disability based on your health situation.
According to Medicare.gov, the official government website for Medicare, the visit might also include:
- “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.
Just note that costs such as a deductible might apply if during an annual visit you receive additional tests or services that aren’t covered preventive benefits.
The following types of counseling are among those covered by Medicare for people who meet eligibility requirements:
- Alcohol counseling — up to four sessions per year
- Smoking and tobacco counseling — up to eight sessions in a 12-month period
- Cardiovascular behavioral therapy visits — one per year
While the first two types of counseling are intended to help a patient quit alcohol or tobacco, which are moves with extensive health benefits, cardiovascular behavioral therapy is targeted at helping you lower your risk of developing heart disease.
“During therapy, your doctor may discuss aspirin use (if appropriate), check your blood pressure, and give you tips to make sure you’re eating well,” says Medicare.gov.
Medicare covers screenings for a variety of health conditions. They include screenings for:
- Cardiovascular disease — one blood test every five months
- Colorectal cancer — one colonoscopy every 24 or 120 months, depending on your risk
- Depression — one screening per year
- Diabetes — up to two screenings per year
Some screenings have eligibility requirements, while others do not.