It's Free: Seniors Should Get Their Annual Wellness Visit, Flu Vaccine and Pneumonia Vaccine

Expert advice from Dr. Judith Black, medical director for Highmark Senior Markets

Sep 13, 2011, 10:20 ET from Highmark Inc.

PITTSBURGH, Sept. 13, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- You know the saying: "Nothing in life is free." Well, that's not true for seniors enrolled in Medicare.

Beginning this year, a new Medicare benefit allows seniors to get a free annual wellness visit with their doctor to develop or update a personalized prevention plan based on their current health and risk factors. Those seniors who haven't done their annual wellness visit this year still have a few months to do so.

Why not get a flu shot too? It's also free under Medicare. Adults age 65 and older are among the hardest hit by influenza and are at much greater risk for complications from the flu. Pneumonia vaccines are also free for Medicare beneficiaries, and one shot usually gives lifelong protection.

Top four items to bring to your annual wellness visit with your doctor

  1. A list of all health care providers (specialists, eye doctors, dentists, etc.) that you have seen in the past 12 months
  2. All medications you are taking, including vitamins and over-the-counter products
  3. Your advance medical directive if you have one
  4. Any questions you may have about how to manage your health, prevent illness and plan an exercise program that is right for you

Top four tips for staying healthy this flu season

  1. Get a flu shot. You can get your flu shot as early as September or as soon as it is available. Flu shots, however, can be effective whenever you get one, including through December and later.
  2. Wash your hands often. Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing.
  3. Stay healthy. Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage stress, drink plenty of fluids and eat nutritious foods.
  4. Avoid close contact with people who are sick. If you are sick, keep your distance from others. If possible, stay at home when you're sick.

September is National Healthy Aging Month, and now's the time to take advantage of these free health care services.

For more information, visit

SOURCE Highmark Inc.