Your Welcome to Medicare Physical

In this article...
  • New Medicare members frequently get a welcome to Medicare physical as part of the new patient process. Find out what to expect during your appointment.

Tens of millions of older adults in the United States rely on Medicare for their basic healthcare. As part of the onboarding process, you may have the option to visit your primary care physician for a welcome to Medicare physical exam. This is a common first appointment for new beneficiaries, and it helps to establish a baseline for your ongoing health appointments. During this exam, your doctor is likely to check most of your vital stats and check your blood levels for signs of trouble. The appointment is also an opportunity to speak with your doctor about any health concerns you have.

Not everybody gets a welcome to Medicare physical, and some people need more attention than a single appointment can offer. If you have recently joined Medicare, or if you expect to become eligible soon, your provider may reach out to you to schedule your first Medicare-covered wellness check.

Why Do You Need a Welcome to Medicare Physical?

When you first start with a new healthcare provider, it's generally a good idea to get an initial wellness checkup as soon as possible to spot any health issues you might have. It is also a convenient opportunity to meet a new health team, especially if you are switching medical providers with the start of your Medicare benefits.

An initial welcome to Medicare physical can also provide helpful information about your baseline health. Most people who take part in the Medicare program keep their benefits for the rest of their lives, so having a snapshot of your health at age 65 can be helpful for monitoring your health for years to come.

Is the Welcome to Medicare Physical Free?

Original Medicare splits its coverage into three major components, known as Parts A, B and D. Part A is the inpatient hospital benefit plan you automatically get when you start receiving Medicare, and Part D is the optional prescription drug benefit. Outpatient services, including physical exams in your doctor’s office, are typically covered under Part B. Medicare Part B does offer an initial wellness screening at no cost to you. Medicare Advantage plans, often called Part C, are required to offer the same coverage as Original Medicare Parts A and B, so participants in this program can also usually get an initial no-cost screening when they join.

What Happens During the Exam?

The welcome to Medicare exam is much like any other physical your doctor performs. While the exact details of the care you get will probably vary from provider to provider, you can expect to answer questions about your health and talk with the doctor about your personal history. The doctor is likely to check your height, weight, body mass, blood pressure and may perform a vision check. You may also be screened for potential signs of depression, anxiety or other mental health issues common among seniors. Your appointment with the doctor is likely to include a trip to the lab for a blood test that can include a complete blood cell count and enzyme check.

Your doctor could also ask you questions about your lifestyle to assess how well you thrive in your current living arrangements. Whether you live alone, with family or in a senior living facility, the doctor will probably enter this information in your chart and speak with you about alternatives if necessary.

Before you leave, you will probably be asked about your smoking history, drug or alcohol use and various other lifestyle issues in order to counsel you about good health habits and refer you to resources you might need, such as smoking cessation or weight loss programs. You can usually ask for a written checklist or plan of action for future preventive or treatment services you might need.

Do You Have to Get a Welcome Physical?

You do not have to get a welcome to Medicare physical when your benefits kick in, since Medicare considers this exam to be optional. You may want to opt in, however, as Medicare Part B benefits do not usually pay for a regular wellness physical for the first 12 months after plan coverage starts.