For the last 50 years, Medicare has provided millions of Americans with quality healthcare. Members do pay certain costs, including deductibles, premiums and copays. However, there are steps to take to manage and even lower Medicare costs. A selection of doctors have revealed essential medical screenings. These tests may be the best way to prevent smaller health-related issues from turning into something much more expensive (and deadly). Even better, these screenings are all completely covered by Medicare.
A 2013 Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) report showed ways to keep costs down and prevent future, more serious health issues. For example, in 2010, annual hypertension (high blood pressure) costs for adults was $773. But if left untreated, the risk of the patient experiencing a stroke increases; uninsured medical may be as high as $20,000. Medicare pays some of the expenses for both hypertension and stroke. Even so, the patient has to spend more on the stroke than the hypertension medication(s). Here are the screenings patients should consider:
Consider these essential screenings
- Cardiovascular Disease Screenings – For cardiovascular conditions, doctors encourage patients to make lifestyle changes (diet weight loss), and take prescribed medications. But experts recommend that seniors first receive a cardiac risk assessment, which involves: measuring blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose levels and answering questions about family history and lifestyle choices. These screenings can detect or prevent future incidents of heart disease, including: heart attack, stroke and vascular dementia (brain damage reducing blood flow to the brain).
Even after surviving these events, patients may be left with impaired abilities, the loss of independence and ongoing, expensive medical bills. Medicare pays 100 percent for certain cardiovascular screenings, including: one screening every five years to test cholesterol, lipid (fats), lipoprotein and triglyceride levels; an annual primary care visit to check blood pressure and discuss nutrition and other heart-healthy habits; and obesity screenings and counseling.
- Colonoscopy or CT Colonography – These screenings are effective for detecting and preventing colon-related conditions. Colon and colorectal cancer, are almost entirely preventable. Colonoscopies involve long, narrow, flexible tubes with a camera and light on one end being inserted to examine the rectum and colon. Medicare covers 100 percent of colonoscopy costs every 120 months, or every 24 months, for those at high risk. CT colonographies, noninvasive scans, are not covered. But they’re still far cheaper than the $50,000 estimated by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) for the first year of colorectal cancer treatment.
- Depression and Alcohol Screenings – While they may not save as much money, they’re still considered important. Depression and alcoholism may lead to memory loss, liver issues and diabetes and affect medications taken. Each year, Medicare pays for one alcohol misuse screening and one depression screening. Those meeting the criteria receive four free, face-to-face counseling sessions per year.
- Mammograms – The NCI estimates that among 60-70 –year-old women, one in 28 will develop breast cancer. For those 65 or older, the average treatments during the first year cost more than $23,000. Most women age 40 or older with Medicare receive one free mammogram every 12 months.
- Glaucoma Tests – Glaucoma (increased eye pressure) and macular degeneration (loss in the center of field of vision) screenings are especially valuable. While Medicare usually doesn’t cover eye exams, one glaucoma screening is covered every 12 months. Eligible patients pay 20 percent and the Part B deductible, and Medicare then pays the remaining 80 percent. These patients include: those with a family history of glaucoma; diabetics; African-Americans 50 or older; and Hispanics age 65 and older.