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Medicare is not just an acute care benefit.  It covers skilled maintenance nursing and therapy; in some cases it covers long-term home care. Also, importantly, Medicare covers many preventive services, which, when utilized, can help limit the need for more costly future care.

Most Medicare beneficiaries know about the "Welcome to Medicare" physical, but Medicare covers many other important preventive services. Some of the other services include annual mammograms for women age 40 and up, colorectal cancer screenings for people over 50 or at high risk, and prostate cancer screening tests for men over 50. Several other screenings and tests are covered, including diabetes self-management training and screening tests, HIV screening tests, cholesterol tests, and glaucoma screenings.  Medicare covers medical nutrition therapy services for some patients. Flu, Pneumonia and Hepatitis B vaccines are covered. Importantly, in our changing health landscape, Medicare also covers smoking and tobacco use cessation counseling, and depression screenings.  Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, the number of Medicare-covered preventive services has increased, and most do not require a co-pay.

For a full list of Medicare-covered preventive benefits, the frequency with which they can be accessed, and a breakdown of co-payments and deductibles, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has created a quick reference page. The page also includes billing codes and information should that become a coverage issue.

Beneficiaries should take advantage of the preventive services covered by Medicare. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

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