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Physical Exams & Annual Wellness Visit

Most people benefit from physical exams and annual wellness visits (AWVs), but older adults especially should take care not to neglect this important step in preserving their health.


Annual wellness visit (AWV) for older adults


Under Medicare, an AWV is a yearly appointment with your primary physician to create or change your personalized prevention plan. You and your doctor will work together to create a plan to help prevent illness, based on your individual health needs.


During the AWV, your doctor will discuss your health and any questions you may have. They will probably measure your height, weight and blood pressure, and also discuss your individual and family medical histories. If necessary, he or she may recommend additional tests or procedures.


An AWV is covered by Medicare Part B if you have had Part B for more than 12 months and have not received an AWV in the past 12 months. You also cannot have an AWV in the same year as the Welcome to Medicare preventive visit.


Physical exams for older adults


The AWV is different from a physical exam, according to Medicare. Usually the physical exam is more extensive than the AWV, and may also include:

  • Checking vital signs

  • Testing reflexes

  • Lung exam

  • Head and neck exam

  • Abdominal exam

  • Neurological exam

  • Testing blood or urine samples


Unlike the AWV, Medicare does not cover routine physical examinations.


What should I bring to my physical exam or annual wellness visit?


Your physician’s office should let you know if you need to bring anything special to your appointment. In general, however, you should be prepared to bring:

  • List of all current medications and medical devices you use

  • Names of any specialists you have seen recently

  • ID and all insurance and Medicare cards

  • List of any symptoms that concern you


You might consider bringing a close friend or relative to your appointment with you. They may think of other questions to ask your doctor and help you remember any instructions your doctor provides during your visit.

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