What original Medicare covers – and doesn’t cover

(BPT) - As you age, you gain wisdom — and a big part of that wisdom is realizing the importance of caring for your health. Taking care of yourself means getting regular checkups and screenings to help prevent issues from becoming serious — and to help you feel good while living your best, healthiest life every day.

If you’re approaching age 65, you’ll want to know what’s covered — and what’s not — before signing onto Medicare, which may provide most of your health insurance coverage. The good news is, a lot of basic preventive health screenings are actually covered in Medicare Part B. However, there are some important items that aren’t, so you may want to research alternate coverage to make sure you’ll be able to care for all aspects of your health at age 65 and beyond.

Here’s a rundown of some of the major preventive screenings covered by Medicare Part B, and a couple of important ones that are not covered.

Basic health screening.

When you first sign up for Medicare, you will have an overall health screening that includes vital indicators like height, weight, blood pressure, necessary shots and a simple vision test. Referrals will be made if you have any issues that require follow-up. Each year, a similar yearly wellness visit will cover those basics. Flu, hepatitis B and pneumococcal shots are covered.

Cardiovascular screening.

In order to detect conditions that could lead to a stroke or heart attack, covered screening includes blood tests for cholesterol, lipid and triglyceride levels. You'll want to follow your health practitioner's advice about the frequency of screenings and recommended preventive measures such as improving your diet and exercise routine.

Cancer screenings.

Also covered by Medicare are important screenings such as colonoscopy, mammogram and screenings for prostate, cervical and lung cancer. These are all screenings that should be conducted regularly to catch any early warning signs, as early treatment leads to the best health outcomes.

Dental checkups.

Routine dental care is not covered by Medicare. You may want to consider outside or supplemental coverage that will help you pay for regular cleanings, checkups, X-rays and any routine dental work such as fillings or filling replacements that you may need. Dental care can become very costly without any coverage.

Vision care.

Apart from the simple vision test during your initial medical checkup, vision checkups, contacts and eyeglasses are not covered by Medicare. One exception is that Medicare will cover a yearly glaucoma test if — and only if — you are at high risk for glaucoma. Risk factors for glaucoma include diabetes, a family history of glaucoma, if you are African American and 50 or older, or if you are Hispanic and 65 or older. Another exception is that some coverage is provided by Medicare if corrective lenses are needed following cataract surgery that implants an intraocular lens.

Caring for your vision as you age is crucial, as vision exams can be important indicators of other health issues such as diabetes and hypertension, before you have any other signs or symptoms. And everyone should be regularly tested for glaucoma, even if they are not at high risk for glaucoma. Whether or not you rely on corrective lenses now, it’s a good idea to get supplemental vision coverage while you’re on Medicare. According to VSP, the leader in vision coverage, people will typically save more than $200 with an individual vision plan. VSP Individual Vision Plans cover eye exams, contacts and glasses, too. With the low-cost premiums and savings on glasses, you can get a stylish pair for every day of the week, and opt for lens enhancements like progressive (no-line multi-focal) and light-to-dark tinting. VSP has the largest network of independent eye doctors, so it’s likely you won’t have to change if you have one you trust. For more information, visit the VSP Direct Medicare website.

The time to plan for any supplemental insurance coverage you may need is well before you hit 65 and apply for Medicare. It's best to think ahead, and make sure that your health is covered, from head to toe.