Medicare officials want seniors to take advantage of the screening tests and immunizations that Medicare now covers. Data show that fewer than 1 in 10 recipients are getting all the screenings and immunizations recommended by public health groups, according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).
Medicare's hope is that spending money upfront will save tax dollars down the line. "It is a fundamental change in the way Medicare thinks," said Herb Kuhn, acting deputy administrator at CMS.
Medicare spent the summer spreading the word with a bus tour of 48 states and >120 cities in conjunction with local officials, hospitals, and senior care groups. In 2007, Medicare started paying for ultrasound screenings for aortic aneurysms in at-risk patients. Over the past 5 years, the program has added coverage for glaucoma screenings, cardiovascular and diabetic screenings, and medical-nutrition therapy. The program has covered vaccines for flu, pneumonia, and hepatitis B; mammograms; cervical and prostate cancer tests; and bone-density screenings.