Be Sure To Discuss The Crucial Health Issue At Your Annual Exam

Whether you’re 20 or 80, healthy or sick, there is an important conversation you need to have with your doctor at your next annual exam.

It’s not a conversation about your current health concerns, but about your future ones.

It’s a conversation about Advance Care.

Advance Care Planning involves thinking about the types of medical decisions you will want made for you if you are in a situation where you cannot state them yourself.

Sound like a depressing topic? It doesn’t have to be. This is a time for you to think about and communicate your personal values and desires regarding end-of-life care.

If you’re receiving Medicare benefits, this conversation is even covered. Medicare will pay Advance Care Planning at your Welcome to Medicare Exam and at each Annual Wellness Visit.

The Advance Directive

The specific decisions you make are written into a legal document called an advance directive.

Some of the decisions in an advance directive could include whether you want to be put on a ventilator if you cannot breathe on your own, and whether you want CPR if your heart stops.

Bear in mind that these decisions are not set in stone. You can change them at any time, if your situation, your health, or your feelings change.

The Healthcare Proxy

You may have difficulty considering what you would want at some unknown future point, especially if you are currently in good health. For these reasons, it is best to designate a healthcare proxy, someone who you can trust to make medical decisions for you.

Your healthcare proxy might be a relative, but it doesn’t have to be. You might feel that a close friend or someone in your spiritual community might have a better sense of your values — and might have a clearer head in an emergency.

Both the advance directive and healthcare proxy form are legal documents, but in New Jersey they do not need to be notarized or completed by a lawyer. You can find these forms, as well as more information about advance directives and healthcare proxies in New Jersey by clicking here.

If you have Medicare coverage, the best time to have these discussions with your doctor is at the Welcome to Medicare visit or at your Annual Wellness Visit, when Medicare will cover the entire cost. But if you have missed that opportunity this year, don’t let that stop you. Medicare will still cover Advance Care Planning through Medicare Part B.

Preventive Care from Medicare

I spent this morning meeting with our Regency corporate team at the beautiful and inviting Regency Grande (truly a center for excellence in post-acute rehabilitation) in Dover, NJ. What a treat!

We discussed many things, including Medicare and how to continue to push for consumer  empowerment.

We are all about educating our patients and families and indeed this very blog is the pristine and quintessential example of this commitment.

Today’s article is no different.


Medicare is best known for covering sick visits and hospital stays, but it also offers a variety of preventive care services to help recipients avoid getting sick to begin with.

The following services are available — for free — to everyone enrolled in Medicare.

Annual Wellness Visit

Medicare pays for a complete check-up with your healthcare provider every twelve months.

This visit includes receiving information about other healthcare screenings you may be eligible for, based on your condition.

Starting in 2016, the annual wellness visit includes the opportunity to work with your healthcare provider to develop an advance care plan. Advance care planning refers to decisions you make now about what type of care you would want to receive if you were in a situation in which you were unable to communicate your wishes.
There is no additional deductible or co-pay when advance care planning takes place during an Annual Wellness Visit. If the planning takes place at a different visit with your provider, it is subject to Medicare Part B costs.

Cost: FREE, during an Annual Wellness Visit

Colorectal Cancer Screening

Colorectal cancer is the fourth most common cancer in the US. Everyone over the age of 50 is eligible for a colorectal cancer screening every 12 months.

Cost: FREE

EKG Screening

An EKG measures the electrical activity of your heart beat, and is an essential screening tool for detecting heart disease, the leading cause of death in the US. An EKG is covered whenever your healthcare provider considers it necessary.

Cost: FREE

Flu Vaccine

Medicare covers the administration of a flu shot, once a year, during the fall or winter. The flu is particularly dangerous for those over 50. Even though the flu vaccine does not offer absolute protection against getting the flu, if you do get the flu, you are likely to have a more mild case if you have been vaccinated.

Cost: FREE

Pneumonia Vaccine

Unlike the flu shot, which one needs annually, most people only need one pneumonia vaccine. Medicare covers pneumonia vaccines for everyone 65 or older, or as often as your health care provider deems necessary.

Cost: FREE



Breast cancer is the second leading cause of death from cancer in women. Mammograms, which detect breast cancer, are covered every 12 months for women aged 40 and over. Early detection is the key to successful treatment of breast cancer, and mammograms reveal the disease long before it can be found on exam.

Cost: FREE

Cervical Cancer Screening

Women of all ages are covered for a pelvic exam and Pap test every 24 months (every 12 months if they are at high risk). These tests detect abnormal changes in the cervix, and allow treatment before cancer has a chance to develop.

Cost: FREE


Prostate Cancer Screening

Prostate Cancer is the second most common cancer in American men. Medicare covers screening every 12 months for men ages 50 and over. Medicare covers both components of Prostate Cancer screening, the blood test and the physical exam. The physical exam, however, is subject to a co-pay.

COST: Blood test: FREE / Physical exam: Cost is subject to Medicare Part B deductible

Other preventive services are available to Medicare recipients who are at high risk for specific diseases. Speak to your provider to find out what is best for you. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and Medicare is happy to pay for it.

At the Regency Nursing and Rehabilitation Centers, we offer the very best of care in a patient-centered environment. This means always listening to our residents and patients and respecting their capabilities, while helping them to achieve maximum functionality and independence. And always maintaining the highest professional and quality standards in our staff and our facilities. Our 25 years of excellent care have led to us being awarded a Best Nursing Homes award by US News & World Today, a 5-Star rating by USA Today, and an A+ rating by the Better Business Bureau, among many other awards.

Contact us by clicking here to see which of our three facilities will best meet your needs or the needs of your loved one.