Oakwood offers new benefit for Medicare patients

With recent changes brought on by health care reform, several Oakwood physician practices are now offering free Medicare Wellness Visits, an important preventive measure for patients aged 65 and older.

Medicare Well Visits are a new benefit for Medicare patients established through the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, and require no co-pay or deductible. The visits are intended to increase the practice of preventive medicine by establishing an individualized wellness plan for each patient. The plan is based on individual family health history, current conditions and other potential risk factors.

“These visits are more like a conversation, rather than a physical exam,” said Robert Sharon, MD, chief medical officer of Oakwood Physicians (OPi). He said the program helps to build a stronger bond between patients and doctors, too. “It’s a wonderful idea where the focus is on working together to help the patient stay healthy,” he added.

Medicare Well Visits consists of three separate appointments. Here’s how they work:

The Initial Preventive Physical Exam, or ‘Welcome to Medicare Visit,’ is the first step. It is open to patients within their first 12 months of enrollment in Medicare Part B and includes a conversation with the doctor and setting health goals. At the end of the visit, the patient leaves with a schedule of screenings to get over the next five to ten years.

After the first 12 months, patients qualify for the Initial Wellness Visit. The purpose of this visit is to update the prevention plan established during the ‘Welcome to Medicare Visit.’ It can also serve as a substitute for those patients that never received their ‘Welcome Visit’ and no longer qualify. In such cases, the patient and physician will use this time to establish health goals and a prevention plan. The third visit is the Annual Wellness Visit, which takes place every 12 months thereafter that and is beneficial in allowing doctors and patients to monitor the status of health goals.

“Prevention is the most important part of comprehensive health care,” said Sharon. “It’s important that our patients know not only that these visits exist, but what they are and how they fit into their overall health care. Patients should definitely take advantage of this.”

Although additional tests or services are not covered during these yearly visits, the savings associated through practicing preventive medicine outweigh the costs of treatments in the long run.

For more information or to schedule a Medicare Wellness Visit, patients can call their physician’s office or 800.543.WELL.