Wellness checks

As soon as we’re old enough to drive a car, we hear it over and over – regular oil changes are key to extending the life of our vehicles. Imagine if the cost was covered by your auto insurance. Would you miss a round of suggested maintenance? Now, shift to your annual wellness visits, important preventive care that’s generally included in health care coverage (no imagining necessary). Are you letting this potentially life-extending benefit sit idle?

“It is important to set aside time every year for you and your primary care provider to review your past and current medical status,” says Elsie Verbik, M.D., medical director for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska.

During your annual wellness visit, Dr. Verbik says, your doctor has time to focus on your well-being with a “big picture” perspective. Together, you will review your family history, good (and not so good) habits, chronic medical and surgical conditions, and current medications – both prescription and nonprescription, including vitamins, herbal remedies and other supplements.

Other top priorities during an annual wellness visit include:

• Prevention and early detection of cancer. “You and your primary care provider can discuss detection of breast cancer, cervical cancer, colon cancer, prostate cancer and other cancers you may be predisposed to,” Dr. Verbik says.

• Advising on the prevention and early treatment of other medical conditions, such as osteoporosis, urine leakage, weight gain and pre-diabetes. Dr. Verbik says wellness visits are “a good opportunity to review the useful role of vaccinations in the prevention of serious illness.”

• Prevention of falls. “Your clinician may ask you questions about your vision, hearing, sleep patterns, daily activities and home safety, and perform an assessment of your walking balance,” she explains.

• Advanced care planning. “We are never too young to plan for a serious life-threatening event. The annual wellness visit allows time for you and your primary care provider to discuss what your choices would be in such an event,” Dr. Verbik says.

“Most importantly,” she says, “at your annual clinic visit, you and your provider will discuss what you can do to maintain your health and prevent illness,” which could involve creating a personalized prevention plan.

Despite the many potential benefits, Dr. Verbik knows some people still aren’t prioritizing that annual appointment. “We tend to think of our health care providers only when we are either not feeling well or when we need medication refills,” she says. “At other times, when we are feeling well, we do not feel that we need them. Taking the time out of our busy schedules to spend in a clinic waiting room, therefore, seems wasteful.”

Nothing, she says, could be further from the truth.

“Prevention is still the best cure. The time you invest in yourself and your personalized prevention plan is never wasteful. It is immeasurably valuable,” Dr. Verbik says.

Routine preventive care, including annual wellness visits, screenings, immunizations and counseling, are generally covered at 100 percent by most Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska health plans.

“Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska believes in the tremendous benefit of preventing disease,” Dr. Verbik says. “I hope everyone will schedule and keep this very important clinic visit once a year to maintain the health we can be so grateful for.”

Something to keep in mind – summer months are typically the hardest months to get a check-up appointment scheduled. Try scheduling your wellness visit before May or after August.

For more information about Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska’s approach to preventive care, visit NebraskaBlue.com/Member-Services/Getting-Care/Preventive-Care.

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