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New Year's screenings

Resolve to prevent illness this year

Created date

January 5th, 2016

The 2010 Affordable Care Act made the majority of preventive health services offered by Medicare available at little to no cost. Utilization of these services has since gone up, with up to 85% of beneficiaries taking advantage of at least one of them. 

When examined individually, however, some of the most important life-saving and illness-preventing services are underused. Only half of beneficiaries, for instance, get a screening colonoscopy, and 60% get flu shots. Fewer still (about 10%) have their annual wellness visit, which screens for a significant number of physical and cognitive problems. 

The following chart summarizes the preventive services Medicare offers. Not all beneficiaries qualify for every screening test. “In the New Year, seniors should resolve to have all of the services that they need,” says Myla Carpenter, M.D., medical director at Charlestown, an Erickson Living community in Catonsville, Md. “Schedule your annual wellness visit, and you and your provider can discuss which screenings are appropriate.”

Preventive service*                                        Medicare coverage**

Annual wellness visit                                        Yearly

Abdominal aortic aneurysm screen               1 time if at risk

Alcohol misuse screen and counseling          Yearly

Bone mass measurement                                Every 2 years

Breast cancer screening (mammogram)        Yearly

Cardiovascular disease behavioral therapy    Yearly

Cardiovascular disease screenings                   Every 5 years

Cervical and vaginal cancer screening             Every 2 years


Colorectal cancer screening:

• colonoscopy                                                     Every 10 years

• fecal occult blood test                                    Yearly

• flexible sigmoidoscopy                                   Every 4 years for patients at risk

• screening barium enema                              Every 4 years when used instead of sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy

• multi-target stool DNA test                          Once every 3 years if qualified


Depression screening                                    Yearly

Diabetes screening                                        Twice a year

Diabetes self-management training           As needed—10 to 12 hours of training 

Flu shot                                                           Once per flu season

Glaucoma test                                               Yearly

Hepatitis B vaccine                                       1 time

Hepatitis C screening                                   Once—more often if high-risk

HIV screening    Yearly

Lung cancer screening

(low-dose computed tomography)            Yearly 

Medical nutrition therapy                            Three hours one-on-one counseling for first year; 2 hours yearly after that

Obesity screening and counseling             As needed for people with a BMI of 30 or more; 15-minute individual and 30-minute group counseling sessions

Pneumococcal vaccine                                 1 time; some people need a second shot

Prostate cancer screening—exam and PSA    Yearly

Sexually transmitted disease screening and counseling    Yearly

Tobacco use cessation counseling             8 sessions in a 1-year period

“Welcome to Medicare” visit                       1 time 


*Not all screenings/tests are covered for all beneficiaries. Ask your health care provider about which services you need and how often.

**Adapted from Your Guide to Medicare’s Preventive Services, revised March 2015. Check with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services for the most current information.