Q: What types of preventive health screenings does Medicare completely cover, and which ones require a coinsurance fee? I'm due to get some preventive tests done, but I want to find out how much I'll have to pay before I proceed. -- Frugal Retiree
A: Medicare covers a wide array of preventive services to help you stay healthy, but it's important to know which services are totally covered, and which ones will generate some out-of-pocket costs.
Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, original Medicare now offers many of their preventive health services completely free to beneficiaries.
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Preventive services include various exams, lab tests and screenings that help find health problems in their earliest stages when they're easier to treat.
They also include a number of vaccinations and programs for health monitoring, as well as counseling and education to help you take care of your own health.
Here's a quick rundown of the different Medicare preventive services that won't cost you a cent, along with the eligibility requirements you'll need to meet to get them.
n Wellness visits: All Medicare beneficiaries are eligible for two types of preventive wellness visits - one when you're new to Medicare and one each year after that. But don't confuse these with full physical examinations. These are prevention-focused visits that provide only an overview of your health and medical risk factors and serve as a baseline for future care.
n Colorectal cancer screening: The fecal occult blood test, flexible sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy is available to all beneficiaries age 50 or older.
n Mammograms: All women with Medicare ages 40 and older can get a free breast cancer screening mammogram every year.
n Pap tests and pelvic exams: These cervical and vaginal cancer screenings are available every two years, or once a year for those at high risk.
n Prostate cancer screenings: Annual PSA blood tests are available to all male beneficiaries age 50 and older.
n Cardiovascular screenings: Free blood test to check cholesterol, lipid and triglyceride levels are offered every five years to all Medicare recipients.
n Diabetes: Screening available twice a year for those at risk.
n Bone mass measurements: This osteoporosis test is available every two years to those at risk, or more often if medically necessary.
n Abdominal aorticaneurysm screening:To check for bulgingblood vessels, this testis available to men ages 65 to 75 who have ever smoked.
n Vaccinations: An annual flu shot, a vaccination against pneumonia and the hepatitis B vaccine are all free to all beneficiaries.
In addition, Medicare also offers free smoking cessation counseling; medical nutrition therapy to help beneficiaries with diabetes or kidney disease; depression screenings; alcohol screening and counseling; obesity screening and counseling; annual cardiovascular risk reduction visits; sexually transmitted infection screening and counseling; and HIV screenings.
Medicare also offers several other preventive services that require some out-of-pocket cost-sharing. With these tests, you'll have to pay 20 percent of the cost of the service (Medicare picks up the other 80 percent), after you've met your $147 Part B yearly deductible.
The services that fall under this category include digital rectal exams for prostate cancer, glaucoma tests, and diabetes self-management training services.
For detailed information on all Medicare preventive services see medicare.gov/share-the-health, or call Medicare at 800-633-4227 and ask them to mail you a free copy of "Your Guide to Medicare's Preventive Service" (publication 10110).
If you have a Medicare Advantage plan, you'll be happy to know that all Advantage plans are also now required to cover the same free preventive services as original Medicare.
Jim Miller, a contributor to the NBC Today show, is the author of "The Savvy Senior" book. Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit SavvySenior.org.