For all you folks out there who would rather walk across the desert for a thousand miles barefoot than have an annual checkup, I have some bad news.  Thanks to health care reform you may now receive a yearly exam (mammogram and Pap smear for women and a PSA exam for men) at no charge.  Great news, huh?  The no charge part is for those of you who are under the age of 65 and have in place one of the major medical Health plans available in your state.  High deductible health plans that do not pay for anything until you meet the deductible still have to offer you an annual checkup.  If you are over the age of 65 and have a Senior health plan, Medicare will now cover many of the tests that should be done.  When making your doctors appointment for The Annual, be sure to mention that the appointment is for a preventive or well care visit.  Health plans will pay for one preventive visit per year and you do not want the billing to reflect that you came in for migraines and that they ordered a bunch of tests for migraines and not for a well care check up.

What exactly are those tests?  For seniors, or anyone else for that matter, has the answers.

  • Blood Pressure:  yearly checks create a baseline
  • Height: Significant loss can indicate osteoporosis
  • Weight: Significant gain or loss can signify serious health problems
  • Blood Work: Yearly blood work should include a blood count, glucose levels, thyroid function, and blood electrolyte counts
  • EKG: It is recommended that a baseline EKG be done for men and women around the age of 50.  It should be repeated every two to three years
  • Fecal Occult Blood Test: Done yearly to check for colorectal cancer
  • Flexible Sigmoidoscopy/Colonoscopy: Sigmoidoscopy every four years or a colonoscopy every two years for someone with a higher risk of colorectal cancer starting  at the age of 50
  • Measurement of Bone Mass: There is no standard for frequency of this exam.  Women with a family or personal history that puts they at higher risk of osteoporosis should have this test

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a check list for your check up! Here it is:

  • •Review your family health history
  • •Go over the recommended schedule of screenings and vaccines to see if you are due.
  • •Jot down a list of questions, issues or symptoms you would like to discuss with your doctor
  • •Think about any plans for lifestyle changes or possible medical procedures, such as stopping smoking or infertility treatments.  Be prepared to review these plans with your doctor.

We have now covered women, men and seniors.  Children have regularly scheduled checkups until they are about eleven.  But, what about our teenagers?  The web site says that the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that all young people between the ages of eleven and twenty-one be seen annually by their pediatrician.

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