Medicare pays for many screening exams, and even counseling sessions, to help nip common illnesses in the bud. Screening tests are designed to identify problems before symptoms emerge. They are usually for people who are considered to be “at risk” for getting a specific disease. Here are some of the most common noncancer preventive services that Medicare covers. Ask the doctor if your loved one should be tested.
- Bone density test every two years. A low-level x-ray can determine how brittle your loved one’s bones have become. Although women are at higher risk, men can also develop osteoporosis.
- Diabetes screening once or twice a year. This fasting blood test measures glucose to see how well the body is processing sugars. If your relative is at risk for diabetes, ask about Medicare’s 16-week Diabetes Prevention Program.
- Depression screening once a year. Typically, this involves a physical exam and a series of questions. Sometimes blood work is ordered to make sure the depression isn’t caused by something else, like a thyroid disorder.
- Alcohol misuse screening once a year. The doctor may ask questions about alcohol use. If it appears there is a problem, Medicare may pay for some counseling.
- Glaucoma screening once a year. Glaucoma is a leading cause of blindness among older adults. An ophthalmologist (doctor who specializes in eyes) conducts glaucoma tests. One test involves dilating the eyes so they can be examined with special lights and magnifying equipment. Another test blows a puff of air into each eye to measure the pressure inside. It doesn’t hurt. It’s just a bit surprising.
- Cardiovascular screening once every five years. Fasting blood work tests for high levels of cholesterol and triglycerides. Yearly tests are available if the doctor makes a diagnosis of heart disease. This includes blood pressure checks and dietary counseling.