Tom Schrette and Alan Cash

Tom Schrette and Alan Cash

Dear Tom and Alan: You had a column about how people on Medicare get a physical that’s paid for but only during their first year on Medicare.

After that it had to be called something else or you get to pay full price. What was that all about and what did it have to be called?

I’m 68, in great health, and not even sure who my doctor is. What can I do?


Tom: Well, first of all, stay healthy! Second, find a doctor that accepts Medicare. Third, even though you’ve missed the Initial Preventive Physical Exam (IPPE) that you were eligible for during the 12 months after enrolling in Medicare Part B, you definitely qualify for a “wellness” visit.

Al: You are entitled to a wellness visit once every 12 months after the IPPE eligibility runs out.

My doctor describes the visit as all paperwork with questions and answers…no physical touching. The paperwork is a two-page questionnaire. It involves details on your: general health, nutrition, exercise, alcohol, tobacco, home safety, activities of daily living, medications, depression, medical equipment and any new problems.

According to Medicare, there is to be no charge for your annual wellness exam and the visit is not subject to the Part B deductible.

However, you may have to pay something for follow-up lab tests.

Tom: According to medicaremadeclear.com, here’s what our reader can expect when he makes his wellness visit:

  • A health risk assessment (questions you answer about your health).
  • A review of your medical and family history
  • Developing or updating a list of your current providers and prescriptions.
  • Documenting your height, weight, blood pressure and other routine measurements.
  • Looking for signs of memory loss or dementia.
  • Personalized health advice just for you.
  • A list of risk factors and treatment options for you.
  • A screening schedule (like a checklist) for the preventive services recommended for you.

So…just don’t call it a physical because it won’t be covered.

Al: The column Duke referred to was in April of this year. I had looked on FollowMyHealth.com to arrange for a checkup with my doctor. At that time the website stated that St. Joseph Health did not “support” the wellness visit.

I tried later on and was able to schedule a visit. My doctor told me the group was slow to receive all the necessary paperwork through the feds but they were now on board.

I was given my two-page questionnaire, a follow-up appointment date with my doctor, and the written order for some lab tests. I’ll be looking forward to see if they bill me for the first visit, the lab tests or the follow-up with my doctor.

Tom: Sounds like fodder for a later column. Plus, you’ll have to fess up to alcohol and tobacco use, and your true weight and exercise routine!

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Submit questions to schrette@gmail.com or alancash@gmail.com.