You got the card in the mail, and you’re officially a Medicare member. Congratulations! One of your next steps is scheduling a Welcome to Medicare visit. But what kind of visit is this – and is it really necessary?

Let’s go over what you can expect during your Welcome to Medicare visit, including when to schedule it, how to prepare and much more.

What is a Welcome to Medicare visit?

A Welcome to Medicare visit is an initial preventive care visit for new-to-Medicare members. It’s your time to talk with your doctor about your current health and create a general picture of your well-being.

This visit isn’t like an annual physical or a routine doctor’s appointment where you examine specific health concerns. It typically won’t include lab tests or screenings – although your doctor may recommend some. Think of it more as a foundational, preventive health assessment where you’ll review your health history, possible future health concerns and more.

Is the Welcome to Medicare visit mandatory?

No, your Welcome to Medicare visit isn’t mandatory, and you’re not required to take part in it to maintain coverage. Even if there’s no requirement to schedule a Welcome to Medicare visit, it can be a valuable opportunity to discuss your overall health with your doctor.

What does a Welcome to Medicare visit include?

A Welcome to Medicare visit includes a checkup and a conversation with your doctor about your physical and emotional health. This may include a:

  • Review of your medical and family health history
  • Simple vision test
  • Checkup to measure your height, weight and blood pressure
  • Discussion of your emotional health and risk for depression
  • Personalized recommendation for any care you need, like screening tests or shots

What labs are included in the Welcome to Medicare visit?

Think of this visit as more of a preventive touch-base with your doctor. It isn’t an annual physical, so lab tests and screening exams aren’t typically included. You’ll meet with your doctor to discuss your medical history, possible health care needs or potential risks. You’ll also get your doctor’s overall health care recommendations.

When to schedule your Welcome to Medicare visit

Medicare Part B (Medical insurance) covers a Welcome to Medicare preventive visit once within the first 12 months that you have Part B. You can schedule your visit any time during that first year with any doctor that accepts Medicare.

HealthPartners members: You can choose from a selection of in-network Medicare providers in your area.

Your Welcome to Medicare checklist: Preparing for your visit

The more you prepare for your visit, the easier it will be for your doctor to make the best health recommendations for you. Here’s a simple yet comprehensive Welcome to Medicare visit checklist to help you get started.

What to bring:

  • Your family health history. Learn as much as you can about any health conditions your family members have had. This may help your doctor be on the lookout for early signs of disease.
  • Your medical records and immunization records. If you’ve been a patient at that office for a long time, they should have all your records. But if you’re switching clinics, you’ll probably need to get your records transferred from your old doctor to your new one. Call your old doctor’s office ahead of time and ask for their help sending your records. Typically, you’ll need to fill out a form that gives your approval to send your records from one office to another. You don’t have to pay for this, but it can take a few weeks, so make sure you request the transfer well before your appointment.
  • A list of your medicines. Bring all the bottles for your doctor to look at. Make a list of all the prescription medicines, over-the-counter medicines, vitamins and other supplements you take. Write down how much you take, how often you take them and what you take them for.

Your Welcome to Medicare visit is also an excellent time to confirm that your office has a copy of your advance directive on file. These legal documents provide your doctor with instructions for medical care in the event that you can’t communicate your needs for yourself.

Depending on your situation, your advance directives could be a living will or durable power of attorney. If you don’t have an advance directive of any kind but you’re interested in starting that process, ask your doctor for guidance.

Is a Welcome to Medicare visit different than an Annual Wellness Visit?

Yes. A Welcome to Medicare visit serves as an initial checkup with your doctor, building a foundation for the future of your health care as a Medicare member. An Annual Wellness Visit is a yearly appointment that allows you to update your preventive health plan or create a new one based on your current health.

Your Annual Wellness Visit also gives you the opportunity to update your care team or doctor on your overall health and care needs. While that sometimes includes a screening for memory issues, there won’t be an overall physical exam conducted during this visit. This frees up more time to talk about things like:

  • Improving or maintaining your physical and mental health
  • Staying active
  • Reducing your risk of experiencing a fall
  • Concerns about memory issues
  • Problems with bladder control

You get one covered wellness visit each year, and for that visit to be covered, you must go to a care team or doctor that accepts Medicare.

What does a Welcome to Medicare visit cost?

Your Welcome to Medicare visit comes at no charge to you and is covered only once. However, you must go to a doctor who accepts Medicare assignments. And if your doctor recommends any extra care, tests or procedures during your visit, you may have to pay for them. But don’t worry – if you have a Medicare plan, you can always call your insurance company to check on the costs of these extras before you get them.