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Your check-in checklist: How to prepare for your annual wellness visit 

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Every year, you have an important check-in with your provider, which comes at no cost to you through your Medicare plan. Here’s what to expect.

Have you scheduled your annual wellness visit yet? If you’ve been on your Medicare or Medicare Advantage (MA) insurance plan for over a year, you can get this important check-in with your doctor at no cost.1 
An annual wellness visit, or AWV for short, is a key preventive care service. That’s care that’s designed to help you avoid getting sick in the first place.2 

An AWV is less hands-on than an annual physical exam. You don’t change into a gown or have bloodwork done. It’s a chance to discuss your health goals, risk of illness and needs for the coming year with your provider

“An annual wellness visit is an opportunity for your physician to do a more thorough survey and look for health issues that may be developing,” says Howard Bland, MD. He’s the community medical director at Optum Orange County. “This allows us to intervene before small problems become much bigger problems.” 

Dr. Bland compares AWVs to the routine appointments you make for your car. Just as your vehicle requires oil changes and maintenance, your body needs checkups to screen for possible health issues. 

Here’s everything you need to know about this important appointment and what you can do to prepare for it.  

What to expect at an annual wellness visit 

The goal of an AWV is to give your doctor a chance to identify your health risks and create a personalized prevention plan. This process begins with a questionnaire called a health risk assessment.3  

You’ll fill out the questionnaire, and when you’re done, your doctor may:3 

In addition, your doctor will take a moment to discuss advance care planning.4 This is a process that allows you to record your wishes for medical treatment in the future. 

AWV infographic

How annual wellness visits compare with other medical visits 

It’s important to note that an AWV is not the same thing as a routine physical exam.3 Medicare doesn’t cover routine physicals.  

If your doctor orders any tests or services that are not part of your AWV, you may have to pay your coinsurance.3 (That’s a percentage of a health care service you pay before your insurance pays the rest.) 

That said, Medicare does cover many preventive services.2 For example, a yearly prostate cancer screening for men over 50, or a yearly mammogram for women over 40, is covered.5, 6  

Medicare also covers many vaccines, such as:2  

  • COVID-19 
  • Flu  
  • Pneumococcal (helps prevent disease caused by different strains of pneumococcal bacteria)  

Why an annual wellness visit is important 

Having a yearly visit means your doctor can see changes in your health. The idea is to spot potential problems before they happen. As the old saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. 

“The more prepared you are for this visit, the more time can be spent delivering you personalized care,” says Dr. Bland.  

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What to bring to your annual wellness visit 

In addition to your photo ID and Medicare card, here are four other things to consider bringing to your AWV:7, 8 

1. Medical and family history. Your visit will include a review of your medical and family health history. This second part is important because some conditions tend to run in families.9 
These conditions include high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and some forms of cancer.9 Families may also share similar lifestyles and environmental conditions, which can affect health. 

Be ready to tell your doctor about major health issues your parents, grandparents, siblings and other close relatives have had. To make sure you don’t overlook anything in the moment, it helps to write out the important information ahead of time.  

And if you see specialists or other providers for any medical conditions, be sure to bring their contact information. 

2. Medications list. More than 80% of older Americans ages 60 to 79 take at least one prescription drug, and about a third have at least five prescriptions, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.10 Your provider will want to know about yours. 

“As much as medication can be helpful, it can also come with side effects and harmful interactions,” says Dr. Bland. “That also goes for over-the-counter supplements and medications that your doctor may not have specifically prescribed to you.”  

Bring a list of everything you’re taking. That includes medications and supplements you only take occasionally. And be sure to include the dosage.  

You could also bring the actual medications in their original bottles. That will save you some time and give your doctor even more information. 

3. Immunizations and screenings list 

You’ll want to bring a list of the vaccines and screenings you’ve had. If you received these at an Optum clinic, your Optum doctor will have them on record. 

But if you received your shots or tests elsewhere, they may not be included in that record. Writing them down ahead of time can help ensure they don’t get overlooked. 

4. A list of health questions 

You can ask your Optum doctor anything. And your AWV is a great chance to do just that. If you’ve noticed that you’re having bladder problems or you’re not sleeping as well as you used to, tell them about it. And ask them if there’s any way to treat it. 

During your visit, your doctor should make sure you don’t feel rushed. But unless you speak up, they might not know you’re having specific symptoms.  

Did you know that your Optum Care doctor can help you get the preventive care you need, when you need it? Find an Optum doctor

Bonus suggestion: Prepare to talk about advance care planning 

As mentioned above, your provider will ask you questions around advance care planning.4 If you give this thought before your visit, you can move through the process faster.  

Here are the questions your doctor may ask you: 

  • How would you want to be treated if you couldn’t make your own decisions in a medical emergency? (A living will, a type of legal document, covers this.)13 
  • Who would you want to make health care decisions on your behalf? (This is covered by a durable power of attorney for health care. That could be a family member or friend.)11 

In addition to telling your doctor, it’s also helpful to make sure your close family members know how you want to handle these situations, says Dr. Bland. 

Ultimately, your AWV is a chance to sit down and talk to your Optum doctor. By going to it every year, you can ensure that you’re getting the most up-to-date, personal advice and care from a doctor who’s focused on keeping you healthy. 


  1. Medicare.gov. Yearly “wellness” visits. Accessed January 2, 2024.  
  2. Medicare.gov. Preventive and screening services. Accessed January 2, 2024. 
  3. CMS.gov. Medicare wellness visits. Last updated March 2023. Accessed January 2, 2024. 
  4. Medicare.gov. Advance care planning. Accessed January 2, 2024. 
  5. Medicare.gov. Prostate cancer screenings. Accessed January 2, 2024. 
  6. Medicare.gov. Mammograms. Accessed January 2, 2024. 
  7. Medicare.gov. Your Medicare card. Accessed January 2, 2024.  
  8. CMS.gov. Be prepared for your visit. Last revised July 2018. Accessed January 2, 2024. 
  9. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus. Why is it important to know my family health history? Last updated May 12, 2021. Accessed January 2, 2024. 
  10. National Institute on Aging. The dangers of polypharmacy and the case for deprescribing in older adults. Published August 24, 2021. Accessed January 2, 2024. 
  11. National Institute on Aging. Advance care planning: advance directives for health care. Last reviewed October 21, 2022. Accessed January 2, 2024. 

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