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What is the difference between a Medicare Annual Wellness Visit and an Annual Physician Exam?

Medicare does not cover an Annual Physical Exam, instead you have a free benefit called the Medicare Annual Wellness Visit. At this visit, your provider will give you a personalized prevention plan or checklist with the screenings and preventive services recommended for you. You may have a co-payment for the recommended services when you get them.

The Medicare Annual Wellness Visit includes:
  • A health risk assessment (questions you answer about your health)
  • A review of your medical and family history
  • Updating a list of your current providers, medications, and supplements
  • Looking for signs of memory loss or dementia
  • Personalized health advice just for you
  • Reviewing health risk factors and treatment options for you
The Medicare Annual Wellness Visit is an important Medicare benefit that helps you and your provider stay on top of your health. This is not a physical exam but does provide a service to help you with some of the needs you may not have discussed with your provider.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) describes an Annual Physical Exam as studying the body to determine if there is or is not a physical problem. The Annual Physical Exam usually includes:
  • Looking at the body
  • Feeling the body with fingers or hands
  • Listening to the body's sounds
  • Producing sounds, usually by tapping on areas of the body
The Annual Physical Exam may be thought of as a head-to-toe assessment. Providers gather information through their senses — what is seen, felt or heard. Tests may be ordered based on this information but may not be covered as part of the physical exam.