The Basics: Overview

If you have Medicare, be sure to schedule a yearly wellness visit with your doctor or nurse. A yearly wellness visit is a great way to help you stay healthy.

What happens during a yearly wellness visit?

First, the doctor or nurse will ask you to fill out a questionnaire called a health risk assessment. Answering these questions will help you get the most from your yearly wellness visit.

During your visit, the doctor or nurse will:

  • Go over your health risk assessment with you
  • Measure your height and weight and check your blood pressure
  • Ask about your health history and conditions that run in your family 
  • Ask about other doctors you see and any medicines you take
  • Give advice to help you prevent disease, improve your health, and stay well
  • Look for any changes in your ability to think, learn, or remember
  • Ask about any risk factors for substance use disorder and talk with you about treatment options, if needed

If you take opioids to treat pain, the doctor or nurse may talk with you about your risk factors for opioid use disorder, review your treatment plan, and tell you about non-opioid treatment options. They may also refer you to a specialist. 

Finally, the doctor or nurse may give you a short, written plan to take home. This plan will include any screening tests and other preventive services that you’ll need in the next several years. Preventive services are health care services that keep you from getting sick. 

Learn more about yearly wellness visits.

The Basics: Plan Your Visit

When can I go for a yearly wellness visit?

You can start getting Medicare wellness visits after you’ve had Medicare Part B for at least 12 months. Keep in mind you’ll need to wait 12 months in between Medicare wellness visits.

Do I need to have a “Welcome to Medicare” visit first?

You don’t need to have a “Welcome to Medicare” preventive visit before getting a yearly wellness visit.

If you choose to get the “Welcome to Medicare” visit during the first 12 months you have Medicare Part B, you’ll have to wait 12 months before you can get your first yearly wellness visit. 

Learn more about the “Welcome to Medicare” visit.

What about cost?

With Medicare Part B, you can get a wellness visit once a year at no cost to you. Check to make sure the doctor or nurse accepts Medicare when you schedule your appointment.

If you get any tests or services that aren’t included in the yearly wellness visit (like an extra blood test), you may have to pay some of those costs.

The Basics: Who Can Get Medicare?

Medicare is a federal health insurance program. You may be able to get Medicare if you:

  • Are age 65 or older
  • Are under age 65 and have a disability
  • Have amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also called Lou Gehrig’s disease
  • Have permanent kidney failure (called end-stage renal disease)

You must be living in the United States legally for at least 5 years to qualify for Medicare. Answer these questions to find out when you can sign up for Medicare.

Take Action: Make an Appointment

Take these steps to help you get the most out of your Medicare yearly wellness visit.

Schedule your Medicare yearly wellness visit.

Call your doctor’s office and ask to schedule your Medicare yearly wellness visit. Make sure it’s been at least 12 months since your last wellness visit.

If you’re looking for a new doctor, check out these tips on choosing a doctor you can trust. 

To find a doctor who accepts Medicare:

Take Action: Get Ready

Gather important information.

Take any medical records or information you have to the appointment. Make sure you have important information like:

  • The name and phone number of a friend or relative to call if there’s an emergency
  • Dates and results of checkups and screening tests
  • A list of vaccines (shots) you’ve gotten and the dates you got them
  • Medicines you take (including over-the-counter medicines and vitamins), how much you take, and why you take them
  • Phone numbers and addresses of other places you go to for health care, including your pharmacy

Make a list of any important changes in your life or health.

Your doctor or nurse will want to know about any big changes since your last visit. For example, write down things like:

  • Losing your job
  • A death in the family
  • A serious illness or injury
  • Surgery
  • A change in your living situation

Know your family health history.

Your family’s health history is an important part of your personal health record. Use this family health history tool to keep track of conditions that run in your family. Take this information to your yearly wellness visit.

Take Action: Ask Questions

Make a list of questions you want to ask the doctor.

This visit is a great time to ask the doctor or nurse any questions about:

  • A health condition
  • Changes in sleeping or eating habits
  • Pain or discomfort
  • Prescription medicines, over-the-counter medicines, or supplements

Some important questions include:

  • Do I need to get any vaccines to protect my health?
  • How can I get more physical activity?
  • Am I at a healthy weight?
  • Do I need to make any changes to my eating habits?

Use this question builder tool to make a list of things to ask your doctor or nurse.

It can be helpful to write down the answers so you remember them later. You may also want to take a friend or relative with you for support — they can take notes, too.

Take Action: What to Expect

Know what to expect at your visit.

The doctor or nurse will ask you questions about your health and safety, like:

  • Do you have stairs in your home?
  • What do you do to stay active?
  • Have you lost interest in doing things you usually enjoy?
  • Do you have a hard time hearing people on the phone?
  • What medicines, vitamins, or supplements do you take regularly?

The doctor or nurse will also do things like:

  • Measure your height and weight
  • Check your blood pressure
  • Ask about your medical and family history
  • Look for any changes in your ability to think, learn, or remember

Take Action: Follow Up

Make a wellness plan with your doctor.

During the yearly wellness visit, the doctor or nurse may give you a short, written plan — like a checklist — to take home with you. This written plan will include a list of preventive services that you’ll need over the next 5 to 10 years.

Your plan may include:

  • Getting important screenings for cancer or other diseases
  • Making healthy changes, like getting more physical activity

Follow up after your visit.

During your yearly wellness visit, the doctor or nurse may recommend that you see a specialist or get certain tests. Try to schedule these follow-up appointments before you leave your wellness visit.

If that’s not possible, put a reminder note on your calendar to schedule your follow-up appointments.

Add any new health information to your personal health documents.

Make your next wellness visit easier by updating your medical information in the personal health documents you keep at home. Write down any vaccines you got and the results of any screening tests.

Medicare offers an online tool called MyMedicare to help you track your personal health information and Medicare claims. If you have your Medicare number, you can sign up for your MyMedicare account now.

Take Action: Healthy Habits

Take care of yourself all year long.

After your visit, follow the plan you made with your doctor or nurse to stay healthy. Your plan may include:

Your plan could also include: