Staying on top of preventive healthcare is especially important as you grow older. Taking steps to prevent illness and catch disease early leads to lower healthcare spending and better outcomes among older adults. However, many seniors don’t understand what preventive care they need and how they can pay for it.
Medicare and Preventive Care
Concerns over cost keep some seniors from going to the doctor as often as they should, but Original Medicare covers many preventive care services, including immunizations and screenings for a wide range of physical and mental health conditions. Original Medicare also covers a one-time preventive visit in the first year of Part B coverage and annual wellness visits afterwards. Most of these services are provided at no cost to you.
Some important preventive care services aren’t covered by Original Medicare. These include dental, vision, and hearing care. However, you can purchase a Medicare Advantage plan to gain access to additional preventive care benefits. Many Medicare Advantage plans include routine dental and vision care, hearing exams and hearing aids, and other wellness services. Specific plans and coverage options vary by region. A Medicare Advantage plan finder shows which plans are available in your state.
Dental care does more than keep your smile pearly white. Routine dental exams and cleanings also protect against gum infections that could harm your heart and respiratory health and worsen diabetes. Dental care also maintains proper denture fit to prevent gum and jaw problems.
As mentioned previously, dental care isn’t covered by Original Medicare, but you can purchase a stand-alone dental insurance policy or a Medicare Advantage plan with dental benefits.
Depression is a common problem in older adults. Unfortunately, most seniors grew up in a time when mental health problems weren’t talked about. As a result, they’re reluctant to seek treatment when symptoms arise. But treating depression is important for both mental and physical health. If you’re depressed, you’re less likely to engage in health-promoting activities and manage chronic illnesses effectively. These depression services are covered under Medicare:
● Annual depression and alcohol misuse screenings
● Outpatient depression treatment (copays apply)
● Depression medication (covered under Part D)
● Medication management
● Partial hospitalization
● Inpatient mental health services (cost-sharing and benefit limits apply)
Age is the number one risk factor for developing cancer. Early detection leads to better outcomes for young seniors with cancer. However, it’s important to understand that, in your last 10 years of life, cancer screenings and treatment can bring more harm than good. When recommended by your doctor, these Medicare-covered cancer screenings are a smart move:
● Breast cancer (for women)
● Cervical and vaginal cancer (for women)
● Colorectal cancer
● Prostate cancer (for men)
● Lung cancer (for high-risk seniors)
Heart Health Screenings
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S. Under Medicare, you can receive a blood pressure screening every year and a cholesterol screening every five years. Medicare also covers screenings and counseling for obesity, which increases heart disease risk.
The immune system weakens with age, making you more susceptible to contagious illnesses and more likely to fall seriously ill if you contract one. Immunizations build your immunity to protect against life-threatening diseases. These vaccines are covered under Original Medicare:
● Hepatitis B (high-risk seniors only)
Shingles and Tdap vaccines aren’t covered by Original Medicare but may be covered by a Part D or Medicare Advantage plan.
Seniors with osteoporosis develop weak, brittle bones. If you have osteoporosis and slip and fall, you’re more likely to suffer a permanent disability or death. Women are at higher risk of developing osteoporosis, but both sexes can develop the condition. Bone mass measurements screen for osteoporosis and are covered once every two years under Medicare, or more often if you’re high-risk.
There’s a lot you can do to stay healthy as you age. Eating well, exercising, and keeping an active social life all promote a strong body and mind as you grow older. However, a healthy lifestyle isn’t a substitute for preventive care. By combining these preventive care services with good habits, you can keep your health in check in your 60s, 70s, and beyond.
Jason Lewis is a personal trainer. He specialized in caring for the elderly after his mom needed special attention. He enjoys sharing his fitness knowledge on his website and as well as provide information that would help his fellow senior caregivers.