Health screenings you should get after 65

Our risks for disease can change through many stages of life, but a large number of conditions have an increased risk of development later in life. When you reach 65, there are a number of considerations to take regarding health care, and preventive services need to be a part of the equation.

The importance of preventive care
Under the Affordable Care Act, a number of preventive services have been made free to seniors with Medicare. In many cases, these preventive services can detect serious disease and conditions early, reducing associated risks and improving treatment and management. Beyond detecting diseases or health conditions earlier, preventive services can also help seniors recognize certain health risks for the future and develop a preventive plan with senior nutrition, fitness and medication for healthier living and reduced chances of developing an illness.

Gender specific screenings
There are many diseases that are more subjective toward men or women, meaning that there are usually different recommended screenings and services based on gender.

When women reach 65, also the age of Medicare eligibility, it is recommended that they receive additional cancer screenings about once a year. These include screenings for breast, colon and cervical cancer.

  • Mammogram: Medicare will fully cover a breast cancer screening mammogram once every 12 months. For a diagnostic mammogram, you are responsible for 20 percent of the cost.
  • Colonoscopy: There is no cost for these screenings and are recommended once every 24 months.
  • Cervical screening: There is no cost to the Medicare patient for cervical cancer screenings every 24 months of 12 months for those at high risk.

Men 65 and older should also take proactive measurements for senior wellness by getting annual screenings for colon and prostate cancer.

  • Colonoscopy: Medicare patients pay nothing for these screenings once every 24 months.
  • Prostate: For a digital rectal exam, you must pay 20 percent of the cost. A prostate specific antigen test has no cost.

Medicare preventive services
There are a number of preventive services that Medicare offers to its health care recipients at no cost to the patient. Some of these services are highly recommended to be scheduled annually, but some also come with their own expenses, largely dependent on health risks.

  • Annual wellness visits: When you are first eligible for Medicare, you are entitled to a free preventive visit to your primary physician within the first 12 months of coverage at no cost with Part B. This visit typically includes a health assessment and education and information about health risks and preventive care services. Based on risk factors determined during the initial visit, you are entitled to a yearly visit to develop, assess or adjust a preventive plan.
  • Screenings: As a result of the ACA, more screenings are covered by Medicare with no copayment or coinsurance by the patient. These include cancer screenings, bone mass measurement, cardiovascular disease screenings, diabetes testing and HIV testing for those at risk or who ask for the test.
  • Shots: The flu shot, hepatitis B and pneumococcal shots are all covered by Medicare. Flu and pneumococcal shots are free for all seniors, while hepatitis B shots are only free for those with a medium or high risk of developing the illness.
  • Nutrition therapy: Medicare will also cover obesity screenings and counseling in addition to diabetes self-management training and nutritional therapy services. You pay nothing for nutritional therapy services and obesity screenings and counseling from a doctor who accepts Medicare assignment. For diabetes self-management training, you pay 20 percent of the Medicare-approved amount and the Part B deductible applies.
  • Tobacco cessation: In an effort to reduce the health risks associated with smoking, Medicare preventive services also offer tobacco use cessation counseling. Medicare Part B will cover eight visits over the course of a year. A Medicare recipient will need to cover 20 percent of the cost of doctor services and a deductible will apply if you use tobacco and have been diagnosed with an illness related to tobacco use.

Other preventive tests
There are many other tests and screenings that are easy to do but may require going to your health care provider. Every year, you should also do simple blood pressure, cholesterol level and vision tests.

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Pete Blasi