New Free Medicare
Annual Wellness Checkup Drawing Many Senior Citizens to the Doctor
services will lower Medigap costs, cost sharing; help employers and
March 23, 2011 - The new free annual wellness visit
added to Medicare coverage for senior citizens and others in the program
by the Affordable Care Act has brought more than 150,000 into medical
offices in less than two months, according to information released by
Health and Human Services.
The report also shows that this enhanced preventive
benefits coverage will lower costs, including lowering Medigap premiums
for employers, states and people with Medicare.
This annual wellness visit is a preventive services
benefit now covered by Medicare free of charge when obtained by a
participating health care professional. It was added to the program by
the Affordable Care Act, along with several other recommended preventive
“The Affordable Care Act is bringing new
preventive benefits and savings to millions of Medicare beneficiaries
this year,” said Secretary Sebelius.
“Seniors and others with Medicare are already
taking advantage of these important preventive services and wellness
visits, which can help lower costs, prevent illness, and save lives.”
The report released March 16 shows that, thanks to
the Affordable Care Act, an average of 2,800 people with Medicare have
received an annual wellness visit per day between January 1 and February
23, 2011. Because Congress has eliminated the part B coinsurance and
deductibles for the annual wellness visit and many other preventive
services, the report says that the use of these services should
This will make a big difference for people with
Medicare who, like most Americans, tend to use preventive services at
roughly half the recommended rate, according to HHS. For example, only
43 percent of women with Medicare received a mammogram in 2008.
The Affordable Care Act encourages beneficiaries to
use more preventive services by waiving the usual coinsurance and
deductible requirements for services recommended by the United States
Preventative Services Task Force (USPSTF) as well as for an annual
wellness visit. If those recommended services are obtained from
qualified and participating health care providers, there are no out of
In addition to improving the use of preventive
services and creating additional savings for beneficiaries, Medicare’s
enhanced prevention benefits will lead to lower premiums for employers
who now fill this gap in coverage.
The same is true with states that fill-in
Medicare’s benefit gaps and cost sharing for low-income seniors through
Medicaid. Lastly, many seniors buy Medigap insurance to cover Medicare’s
cost sharing. With Medicare now paying for annual wellness visits and
the part B cost sharing for many preventive services, Medigap premiums
should be lower.
Additional senior benefits from new healthcare
HHS points out that this is just one of the many
ways the Affordable Care Act is helping improve the Medicare program.
As of January 1, 2011, Medicare beneficiaries no
longer have to pay a deductible, co-insurance, or copayment for many
preventive services covered by Medicare as well as recommended services
newly covered by the program.
The law helps Medicare beneficiaries directly by
taking on the rising cost of prescription drugs and providing important
relief for beneficiaries who fall into the coverage gap – also known as
the “donut hole.”
In addition, Medicare’s use of the new tools
provided by the Affordable Care Act and better management of the program
have stabilized premiums for Medicare’s coverage of prescription drugs
(Part D) and increased the number of prescription drug plans that
voluntarily help fill the donut hole. Along with other efforts to
improve care for people with Medicare, the Affordable Care Act will
generate billions of dollars in savings for Medicare, extend the life of
the Medicare Trust Fund by 12 years, and help cut costs for seniors and
keep them healthy.
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