If you are new to Medicare, you are entitled to one “Welcome to Medicare” visit within the first 12 months of enrolling in Medicare Part B. This welcome to Medicare exam, also called an initial preventive physical examination, is an opportunity for you and your doctor to:

  • discuss your current health and risk factors
  • check for screenings you may need to help spot potential problems
  • evaluate your immunization history to see if you need any shots or vaccinations
  • offer to help you with any advance directives about your health care decisions in the event you become too ill to make your wishes known.

How much does the welcome to Medicare visit cost?

If you have Part B and you schedule the welcome to Medicare exam within a year of first enrolling in Medicare, there is generally no out-of-pocket cost for this visit. However, your doctor may order some diagnostic laboratory or x-ray tests based on findings during your welcome to Medicare visit. If you are referred for these tests, those costs may be billed separately and you may have to pay your Part B deductible and/or any coinsurance or copayment amounts that apply.

The initial welcome to Medicare exam is a one-time-only benefit; however, you are also entitled to yearly wellness exams once every 12 months to help your doctor stay on top of any risk factors that may affect your health and help you access any wellness services you may need to keep you healthy.

How should I prepare for my welcome to Medicare visit?

A big part of the welcome to Medicare exam involves identifying any potential risk factors, including family history, that may increase your chances of developing certain conditions and diseases. The Medicare website recommends that you gather as much information as you can about your family’s health history to help your doctor determine which screening tests you may benefit from.

If you are continuing with the same provider you had before you enrolled in Medicare, she should have your past medical and surgical history on hand, plus your immunization record and list of medications. However, if you are seeing a new provider for the first time, be sure to get copies of your medical records from your old doctor. You also might want to prepare a list of medications, both over-the-counter and prescription, that you take, including how often you take them and what you take them for.

You may also want to bring a family member or caregiver with you; sometimes, they may be able to provide additional information to help your doctor better understand your health issues and risk factors.

What happens during the welcome to Medicare visit?

The welcome to Medicare exam isn’t the same as an annual physical. Your doctor may take some routine measurements, such as height, weight, and BMI calculations, record your vital signs, and administer a simple vision and hearing exam, but she usually won’t do a complete physical examination. Your provider will ask you about your tobacco and alcohol use, assess your risk for depression, and determine if there are safety risks in the home that might increase the chance of falls or other injuries. He may also ask you if you want to discuss end-of-life planning.

At the conclusion of the welcome to Medicare visit, your health care provider may give you a written checklist or plan with a list of screenings, tests, and immunizations you may need that are covered by Medicare. She may also refer you to counseling and wellness services included in your Medicare benefits, such as cardiovascular disease risk reduction services or medical nutrition therapy, you may need.