4 reasons your annual wellness visit should get on your calendar

Now that your annual wellness visit is free — thanks to a really useful provision of the Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare) that affected all health plans starting in 2014 — there’s really no downside to scheduling one. But there are plenty of downsides to not making a yearly visit to your doctor for preventative care. Here are some worthwhile reasons for scheduling.

Take advantage of free health benefits

Your annual wellness visit is now free of charge with no co-pay, even if you haven’t met your deductible and no matter what type of health insurance plan you’re on. Whether you’re covered by a plan sponsored by your employer, a college student health plan, Medicare or Medicaid, a private catastrophic plan, or a family or individual health plan you purchased on the healthcare exchange (also called the marketplace), all plans must comply with the 2014 law and offer a yearly preventative-care office visit and other wellness screenings at no charge to you.

While you may think of that annual wellness office visit as just a cursory blood pressure and cholesterol checkup, HealthCare.gov explains that the new preventative-care provisions for all adults cover many other screenings as well, depending on your needs and age, including depression screening, colorectal cancer screening, obesity screening, diet counseling, and tobacco and alcohol misuse screening and counseling.

HealthCare.gov also lists expanded preventative health care services for women that include a well-woman gynecological office visit, breast cancer and cervical cancer screenings, breastfeeding support and free sterilization procedures, and even free contraception for women of reproductive age who have prescriptions for FDA-approved contraceptive methods from their health care providers.

Build a relationship with your doctor

If you have a good working relationship with your physician, you’re more likely to monitor your health conditions more closely, exercise regularly, make positive dietary changes and adhere to your medication schedule, explains the Center for Advancing Health.Annual wellness visits build a good relationship with your doctor

When you skip the annual wellness visit and only see your doctor when you’re sick or have some other problem, the doctor is at a disadvantage in diagnosing and treating health problems because he or she does not have the full picture of your health history generally provided by yearly visits and screenings.

Create a plan of action for your health

Your yearly preventative-care visit is a time for you and your doctor to establish your personal health benchmarks and discuss ways to improve your health and prevent illness and disease. After discussing the results of screenings, you can create a specific action plan designed to help you stay healthy or to manage and improve chronic conditions. And when you schedule the next appointment in advance, you have some accountability in sticking to the plan in order to see a positive benefit or improvement in your condition at your next annual appointment.

Catch disease at an early, manageable stage

One purpose of the yearly screenings is for your doctor to compare your personal health benchmarks from year to year in order to screen for disease. When or if these values change (such as with a rise in blood pressure), your doctor can detect disease formation at an early stage, when treatment may be most effective, according to the Centers for Disease Control. If you skip your annual wellness visits, a disease can progress for years before being caught at a more advanced stage — this can even be deadly in the case of cancers that have spread, arterial blockages and Type 2 diabetes.

So what are you waiting for? Schedule an appointment with your primary care physician today.

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