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Medicare beneficiaries are missing out on these screenings

Medicare beneficiaries aren’t taking advantage of new preventive services aimed at keeping them healthy. With a new campaign trying to change that, it’s worth taking a closer look at the services that millions of Americans could be getting under the new healthcare law.

Medicare.gov offers a detailed list of what’s available to people over age 65 and some younger people with disabilities, but here are some highlights:

— A comprehensive preventive visit. A wide-ranging “Welcome to Medicare” visit is covered within the first 12 months of signing up for Medicare, allowing doctors to assess general health and order up tests or services they deem necessary; a more traditional yearly visit is covered after that.

— Cardiovascular screenings every five years to measure cholesterol and triglyceride levels.

— Diabetes screenings up to twice a year for people with certain risk factors, such as high blood pressure, high blood sugar, obesity or abnormal cholesterol levels. (And that would include a significant percentage of the population.)

— An annual mammogram for women 40 and older, as well as one baseline mammogram for women ages 35-39.

— Pap tests and pelvic exams every two years for most women, more often for those at higher risk.

— Prostate screenings (a rectal exam and a prostate specific antigen [PSA] test) every 12 months for men 50 or older.

— Colorectal cancer screenings. A blood test is covered once a year, other types and frequencies of screenings are available depending on risk. 

— Bone mass measurements are covered every two years for those at risk for osteoporosis.

The list goes on … smoking-cessation counseling, nutrition therapy for those with kidney disease or diabetes, EKGs, flu shots, glaucoma tests, hepatitis B shots, pneumococcal shots, HIV screening and abdominal aortic aneurysm screenings. All are available at different intervals.

Yet only one in six Medicare beneficiaries has received at least one of these, suggests a new reportfrom the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Prevention makes sense. And now, for some people, it’s free.

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