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Preventive care glossary

By Noah Hughes

Preventive care is a key part of meeting your health goals. That’s one reason why it is so important to take advantage of the preventive services covered by Medicare and Medicare Advantage (MA). But preventive care and screenings won’t benefit your health if you don’t know how to take advantage of them. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of the 10 most important preventive care services. 

The costs of the services described below are generally included in your MA coverage. And your MA plan includes all the same preventive care benefits included in Original Medicare. Many MA plans also include additional benefits like routine vision, dental, and hearing. If your doctor decides they need to follow up on a screening or test, some of the additional procedures that may result may also be covered by your MA plan. In either case, you should check directly with your insurance company to determine your level of coverage for any follow-up care.

“Your coverage likely includes a wide variety of preventive care options, but they can’t benefit your health if you don’t take advantage of them.”

Cardiovascular disease screenings and behavioral therapy

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for adults over the age of 65, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Cardiovascular screenings check your cholesterol and other blood fat (lipid) levels, since high levels of cholesterol can increase your risk for heart disease and stroke. This risk-reduction visit includes screening for high blood pressure and counseling on a healthy diet as well.

Colorectal cancer screenings and associated tests

Colorectal cancer screenings help find precancerous growths in the colon. This means  they can be removed before they become cancerous, or treated at an early stage, when treatment works best. A number of different types of tests can happen in a colorectal exam, including a flexible sigmoidoscopy, which is less invasive than a colonoscopy. As colorectal cancer is a serious health concern, the National Cancer Institute recommends that you get screened annually beginning at the age of 50.  

Diabetes screenings

Your risk of diabetes comes down to three factors: DNA, behavior and age. With MA, you’re covered for a blood screening test for diabetes. People at risk for diabetes who get a referral from a doctor may be eligible for up to two diabetes screenings a year based on the results of their screening tests. If you have diabetes, you’re covered for educational training to help you self-manage it. 

Mammogram screenings

Breast cancer is one of the deadliest cancers in the United States, according to the National Institutes of Health. A mammogram is an X-ray that allows a specialist to examine breast tissue for any suspicious areas. MA plans cover one mammogram screening every 12 months for all women age 40 and older. 

Prostate cancer screenings

Prostate cancer is one of the most deadly and common cancers for men in the United States. Prostate cancer may be found by testing the amount of PSA (prostate-specific antigen) in your blood. Your doctor can also find prostate cancer during a digital rectal exam. Both of these tests are covered once every 12 months for all men over 50. 

Flu shots

The flu can be life-threatening to an older person, so it is very important to receive an annual flu shot. This is especially true for those who have chronic illness, including heart disease, lung disease, diabetes or end-stage renal disease (ESRD). You are fully covered for one flu shot each flu season if your doctor or other qualified health care provider health care provider accepts assignment for giving the shot.

Lung cancer screenings

MA plans cover annual lung cancer screenings with low-dose computed tomography for people who meet several requirements, including age, asymptomatic status and history of smoking, among others. Before your first lung cancer screening, you’ll need to schedule an appointment with your doctor to discuss the benefits and risks of the screening and decide whether it is right for you. 

Depression screenings

Depression screening tests are covered annually when they take place  in a primary care setting, like a doctor’s office. Your Primary Care Physician (PCP) can provide follow-up treatment and referrals. While depression is a common challenge, it is not a disease tied specifically to aging. If you are experiencing signs of depression, contact your PCP for a visit.

Glaucoma tests

During a glaucoma test, your ophthalmologist dilates your eyes to view your optic nerve, which helps determine the status of your nerves and glaucoma. There are many risk factors for glaucoma, including diabetes, a family history of glaucoma and more. The best way for people at high risk to protect themselves is to have regular eye exams. MA plans cover glaucoma tests for people at high risk once every 12 months. 

Yearly wellness visit

MA plans offer a wellness visit once every 12 months to develop or update a personalized prevention plan based on your current health and risk factors. The visit includes many services, such as a review of medical and family history, routine measurements like height, weight and blood pressure, assessment for any cognitive impairments, personalized health advice and a screening schedule for appropriate preventive services. These annual wellness visits are recommended for everyone. If you are signing up for the first time, don’t forget your Welcome to Medicare visit. It’s  covered by MA and Medicare Part B.

Conclusion

The preventive care services discussed above are some of the most important care options covered by MA to help you live a healthier, happier and longer life. But keep in mind that these are not the only services available to you. For a more exhaustive list of preventive services covered by MA, we invite you to visit the Medicare.gov Preventive Screening Services webpage: medicare.gov/coverage/preventive-screening-services.

About the author

Noah Hughes is a writer, researcher, and multimedia storyteller. He loves exceptional storytelling and finds his greatest joy in bringing ideas to life for people all around the world. When not writing he spends his time traveling, working on his photography, and eating good food.