Don't Let Your Annual Exam Become a New Year's Resolution!

December 14, 2021   |   Health & Wellness

Don't Let Your Annual Exam Become a New Year's Resolution!

As we say goodbye to the past year and look forward to embracing new and exciting possibilities, it's important to leave 2021 behind on a positive note. We want to feel that we've wrapped up all of our to-do's, settled our business, and can go into 2022 knowing we prioritize our wellness and honor our commitment to take care of ourselves. With our busy schedules often getting the best of us, we understand that's no easy feat! 

The Women's Center is here with your friendly reminder to schedule your 2021 annual exam. There's still time in the calendar year to use those insurance benefits and check off your preventative care to-do. We know annual exams aren't always the most fun or exciting item on your New Year's Eve prep list. A wellness exam may not be as glamorous as your NYE dress or as wonderful as a bottle of bubbly, but preventative care is one of the most important items on your list. Think of annual exams as a way to feel more confident in your healthcare journey.

Learn more about the benefits of annual exams prior to scheduling your end-of-year wellness check-up.


What Are Annual Exams and Why Are They So Important?

Annual exams are a time to connect with your doctor and review your overall health and wellness. This is your time to discuss any concerns that are top of mind. When it comes to women's health, we see a wide demographic of patients, all with different wellness goals and personal health journeys. Common questions to discuss at your next wellness exam may include family planning, contraceptives, hormonal wellness, menstrual symptoms, and overall mental and physical health check-ins that may inform us as to whether or not a referral to a specialist could be beneficial. 46% of women say their healthcare provider is their first resource when it comes to determining the type of birth control that is best for them, 80% have had a family planning and fertility discussion with their doctor, and roughly half have used their annual appointment to gain insight on healthy lifestyle choices.

Remember, this portion of the exam is driven by both doctor and patient. That means no question is silly and patients are empowered to drive the conversation.

Knowing what to expect at your annual women's exam can make the prospect less daunting. After chatting about your year, assessing any points of concern, and reviewing your medical history, your doctor will perform the exam. This typically consists of a breast exam to check for any lumps or abnormalities and a pelvic exam -- otherwise known as a pap smear -- to check your cervical health. Your doctor will also look for any changes in skin color, discharge, growths, or masses along the way. Annual exams are one of the best ways to detect precancerous cells and malignant growths in the early stages. This in turn allows the treatment of certain cancers to be more targeted and effective.

Once the results of your exam are completed, your healthcare team will review any findings and let you know if they'd like to proceed with any follow-up. If no follow-up is needed, we'll see you back again next year!


What is the Difference Between a Wellness Exam and a Physical Exam?

Wellness exams and physicals may both sound like forms of preventative care that fall under the label of annual exams. However, there are a few key differences to note between the two, particularly where insurance comes into play. 

A women's wellness exam covers screening tests that are deemed necessary by most all insurance carriers. These tests, such as the pelvic exam, are vital in detecting early signs of ovarian and endometrial cancer among other potential concerns. If  further examination or testing is needed, your doctor will then set a separate appointment or make a referral.

By contrast, a physical exam is more in-depth in scope and may also include blood work, x-rays, and a thorough examination of all health factors (eyes, ears, nose, throat, muscles, etc.). Some insurance plans consider physicals as preventative care visits. However, many plans do not cover physical exams or only cover one annual preventative care visit per year.

Cigna defines an annual preventive exam succinctly as, "when your Primary Care Provider (PCP) checks all areas of your health—physical, as well as emotional. This can help detect any health concerns early before they become major medical problems."

When in doubt, check with your insurance provider to see what options are covered under your plan and what, if any, co-pays are applicable.


Why Do I Need to Use My Annual Exam Insurance Benefit Within the Calendar Year?

So we've established why annual exams are important and what type of exams are most likely to be covered by insurance. The next step is to book your year-end appointment to take full advantage of your insurance benefits.

Not only are yearly wellness exams an important part of being proactive in your personal healthcare, but this benefit is a free bonus of the health insurance you carry (and pay for!). Preventive services are complimentary, including plans acquired through the ACA marketplace, employers, or the individual market. These services do not count toward the deductible that people need to pay before their insurance kicks in. The means wellness exams are on a "use it or lose it" model. If you don't take advantage of this benefit each year, you may wind up paying more for multiple visits in the spring or later on in the new year. These exams keep us healthy and serve as a baseline for proving the validity of any future diagnostic appointments that may arise. Annual exams are also required for other forms of insurance such as most life insurance plans. 

Get the most out of your 2021 health insurance benefits by booking your yearly appointment today. Your healthcare team wants to be a part of your New Year's Eve celebration, not your New Year's Resolution. Start prioritizing your health now by taking active steps in preventative care. Reach out to us today to book your wellness exam.


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