8 Ways to Get the Most From Your Medicare Coverage
Once you enroll in Medicare, you should start utilizing the excellent benefits and perks that are available to you.
From downloading the new Medicare app to utilizing your free preventative care options, here are eight ways you can get the absolute most from your Medicare coverage.
1. Do your "Welcome to Medicare" preventive visit.
During the first 12 months in which you have Medicare Part B, you get one free "Welcome to Medicare" preventive visit with your doctor.
It costs nothing – no copay, no coinsurance, no deductible – so why not take advantage of it?
During this free doctor visit, you can expect a thorough review of your medical and social history. You'll have your blood pressure taken, your height and weight measured, a calculation of your BMI, a review of your risk for depression, and even suggestions for what shots or screenings you may need soon.
You'll only be responsible for your Part B deductible or coinsurance if your doctor ends up performing any extra tests or services during the visit.
2. Get your free flu shot.
During the regular flu season, Medicare Part B covers a flu shot. There's no charge for it – no copay, coinsurance, or deductible – so protect yourself against the flu!
If you have any chronic illnesses – including heart, lung, or kidney diseases – or a weak immune system, you're at a higher risk of flu complications. While one person may recover from the flu, those at higher risk of complications may experience bronchitis or pneumonia, which can lead to ER visits, lengthy hospitalizations, and even death.
And, if you're vaccinated and still get the flu, the vaccine can reduce the severity of your illness. While we should all protect ourselves – and others – from the flu, be sure to take extra precautions if you're at a higher risk for complications.In Decatur, I
In Decatur, IL, you can visit Walgreens, CVS, or the Macon County Health Department for a flu shot.
3. Download the "What's Covered?" app by Medicare.
Medicare's free "What's Covered?" app can be a huge help when you're not sure what kind of medical bills to expect.
From colonoscopies to X-rays, you can type in the name of the service or test you're interested in, and the app will tell you what costs to expect.
4. Sign up for a free MyMedicare account.
By registering for a free MyMedicare.gov account, you'll get instant access to all of your medical information. If you're used to waiting months on end for an Explanation of Benefits, sign up for an online account! No more waiting – the info shows up in your account as soon as the provider and Medicare update their system.
In your MyMedicare account, you can:
- View information about your current coverage
- Check your enrollment status
- View Medicare claims
- Download your medical data to an Excel spreadsheet (by using the Blue Button)
- Download your On the Go Report, or a summary of all your health information that you can take with you to doctor visits or when you travel
- View your current Part D drug plan
- Keep a list of your current prescription drugs (can be used when comparing drug plans during the enrollment period in the fall)
- View your preventive services
By signing up for an account, you have a lot more visibility into your Medicare coverage, and you don't have to wait nearly as long to see progress towards your deductibles as well the outcomes of recent Medicare claims.
5. Go to your free annual wellness exam.
Medicare will cover one free wellness exam per year. Again, there's no copays, coinsurance, or deductible required – the visit is genuinely free.
Similar to the "Welcome to Medicare" visit that you can use within your first 12 months of being on Medicare Part B, the wellness exam includes a health assessment, a checklist of preventive screenings, and your typical health checks like blood pressure and weight.
Even if you're healthy as a horse, medical experts such as Dr. Karen Carlson, associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, explain that it's essential to stay in touch with your doctor, at least on an annual basis.
"When doctors see people regularly, we come to understand who they are, so we can interpret their symptoms in a much better context. That really improves a doctor's ability to make a diagnosis, which is very important," she explains (Harvard Women's Health Watch).
While you do have to carve out the time to make it to the doctor's office, at least the visit is free!
6. Consider Medicare's Weight Loss Coverage
Before you get too excited, Medicare will only pay for weight loss programs under a few specific conditions:
- If weight loss is a necessary part of treatment for diseases like diabetes, hypothyroidism, and cardiovascular disease
- If the doctor says you need to lose weight before surgery to reduce complications
If you qualify for the weight loss coverage, you get access to health counseling, diet and exercise education, maintenance visits to monitor your progress, and up to 3 hours of individual counseling services in the first year.
Losing weight isn't easy, but Medicare may able to make it easier on your wallet.
If you don't qualify for Medicare's weight loss coverage, you may enjoy reading Healthy Eating After 60: Top Nutritionists Answer Your Diet Questions.
7. Get preventive screenings.
Medicare Part B covers 20 different preventive screenings:
- Abdominal aortic aneurysm screening (must get a referral from a doctor)
- Alcohol misuse screenings & counseling
- Bone mass measurements (bone density)
- Cardiovascular disease screenings
- Cardiovascular disease (behavioral therapy)
- Cervical & vaginal cancer screening
- Colorectal cancer screenings
- Depression screenings
- Diabetes screenings
- Diabetes self-management training
- EKG screening
- Glaucoma tests
- Hepatitis C screening test
- HIV screening
- Lung cancer screening
- Mammograms (screening)
- Nutrition therapy services
- Obesity screenings & counseling
- Prostate cancer screenings
- Sexually transmitted infections screening & counseling
These are covered in full by Medicare, and your doctor will typically let you know if you need to take advantage of any of them during your annual exam.
8. Review your Part D drug plan every year.
Most Medicare Part D drug plans change every year, which makes it very important that you review your drug coverage and make sure you still have the best policy.
Medicare's new and improved Plan Finder tool makes it easy to compare drug plans based on cost, coverage, and benefits. It's even easier if you sign up for a free MyMedicare account! When you log in, Medicare starts by suggesting prescriptions that you filled within the last 12 months. Plus, when you search for a brand name drug, they'll show it along with any lower-cost generic alternatives.
Since the Plan Finder tool's 2019 update, it now works on your phone or tablet in addition to your computer.
You can typically only make changes to your Part D drug plan during Medicare's Enrollment Period from October 15-December 7, and we've put together a step-by-step guide to help you through the steps: Signing Up for a Medicare Part D Drug Plan Is Easy
Are you getting the most from Medicare?
Medicare offers excellent benefits for a relatively low price.
However, you're still paying your Medicare Part B premium in addition to any supplemental coverage you may have, so it's a great idea to make sure you're getting the most from Medicare.
You've paid into the Medicare program for many years – take advantage of the health coverage you've earned!
If you have any questions or need help choosing an Illinois Medicare health plan, give us a call at 217-423-8000 or schedule an appointment online using our Online Scheduling System.
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