If you have Medicare or soon, you probably know the basics of what it covers. But how much do you know about all the lesser-known benefits included in Medicare health insurance coverage?
They’re not exactly free, because Medicare isn’t free. But these included services do not have direct costs for many Medicare beneficiaries.
There are some caveats. For example, there may be attendance limitations, and your doctor must accept Medicare payment terms. Still, it’s worth knowing that 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. These plans are offered by private insurers and often come with their own set of benefits, as we explain more “5 Extra Perks Covered by Many Medicare Advantage 2020 Plans”.
ANNUAL WELLNESS VISIT
The purpose of the annual wellness visit is to develop or update a personalized plan to help prevent illness and disability based on your health status.
According to Medicare.gov, the official government website for Medicare, the visit may also include:
- A review of your medical and family history
- Developing or updating a list of your health care providers and prescriptions
- Routine measurements – such as height, weight and blood pressure
- Cognitive impairment detection
- personalized health advice
Please note that costs such as a deductible may apply if during an annual visit you receive additional tests or services that are not covered by preventive benefits.
The following types of counseling are among those covered by Medicare for people who meet eligibility requirements:
While the first two types of counseling are intended to help a patient quit alcohol or tobacco, which are movements with broad health benefits, cardiovascular behavioral therapy is intended to help lower the risk of developing heart disease.
“During therapy, your doctor can 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:
Some exams have eligibility requirements, while others do not.
One shot of influenza per flu season is free.
A total of two pneumococcal shots are also covered. These vaccines protect against pneumococcal disease, which the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention describes as any type of infection caused by Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria.
Hepatitis B vaccines may also be covered, depending on your risk.
THE ‘WHAT’S COVERED’ APP
Medicare recently debuted a free app called “What’s Covered”. You can use the app to search for other items and services and find out if Medicare covers them.
“The application provides general cost, coverage and eligibility details,” says Medicare.gov.
If you don’t want to download the app or don’t have an internet-connected smartphone or tablet, you can use a computer to access Medicare.gov’s Your Medicare Coverage tool, which also lets you search for an item or service and find if it’s covered. .
Medicare-eligible people, as well as their families and health care providers, have access to free, in-depth, individualized advice and assistance from the State Medical Health Assistance Programs (SHIP).
The US Department of Health and Human Services funds SHIPs through state grants, according to the department’s Administration for Community Life. There is a SHIP for all states as well as the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam and the US Virgin Islands.
SHIPs can be especially helpful during the open enrollment season, though they offer a number of other services in addition to individual assistance in reviewing Medicare plan options. They can also:
- Answer questions about what Medicare does and doesn’t cover.
- Tell us about direct cost assistance programs for which you may be eligible.
- Help you understand Medicare eligibility criteria.
- Explain how Medicare coverage works in conjunction with supplemental insurance policies, Medicaid, and other forms of health insurance.
To find the SHIP for your state, visit the SHIP website or call 877-839-2675.
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