Your Yearly Free Medical Care Checklist

Your Yearly Free Medical Care Checklist

If you are an American who is lucky enough to have health insurance, you almost certainly have free medical care coming your way.

Several annual and semi-annual services are available to you with no copay—and you have absolutely no reason not to use them. Technically, you have already bought them, as their cost is built into the premiums you’ve already paid; and your body will thank you for it! Even if you feel perfectly healthy, establishing a baseline of health will help your medical professionals detect problems early.

Here’s what you should be doing every year.

Free medical care checklist #1: Annual physical

I just had mine this week. It took less than an hour, and I walked out with a better understanding of my current overall health.

You can get a refresh on any medications you need. And if your insurance charges you extra to see specialists without a referral, an annual physical is a great time to troll your GP for those.

There are a lot of reasons not to go see the doctor, like fear of needles (Piggy’s case) or speculums (my case). But no blood was drawn—a single finger-stick was enough to give me a print-out of my glucose, cholesterol, and triglycerides. Best of all, pelvic exams are (for me) no longer a yearly necessity! Thank you, merciful Kapo, Hawaiian fertility goddess! I hope one day you see fit to bless me with the detachable vagina your prophetess Wanda Sykes has spoken of.

In general, if there’s any medical procedure that’s holding you back from going to see any doctor, just decline it. Your body is your own! No doctor can perform any procedure on you without your consent. They may scold you or try to change your mind, but it’s far better to exasperate them with select refusals than to never see them in the first place.

Make sure it’s really a physical

In the age of Obamacare, all preventative care in the United States should come at no cost to you. However, some insurance companies are sticklers to the terms of a “physical.”

For example, if you ask your doctor questions about your regular medications, or existing health issues, your insurance company may decide the visit was a consultation rather than a physical, and charge you a co-pay.

If cost is a concern, talk to your doctor up-front. “I cannot afford a co-pay, so please keep our discussion topics to what you consider to be within the parameters of an annual physical examination.” If they don’t listen, find another doctor because they’re kind-of being a dick IMO.

Dispensing free medical care just like Doctor Cox, but without the heart-of-gold.

Free medical care checklist #2: Teeth cleaning and x-rays

Mine offers two per year plus X-rays; yours may be a bit different, so check first to see what’s supported and what’s not. If your dentist is good, they can alert you to problem areas before cavities form, and you can pay special attention to them while brushing to stave off a more expensive (and uncomfortable) fix.

Be picky about your dentist. I did not realize until I found a truly gentle and attentive dentist how manhandled I had been in the past. When I marveled at how I barely felt the oral shot he’d just given me, he sighed. “Nothing a dentist does should hurt,” he told me. “If it does, it means you have a dentist who doesn’t care about your comfort and isn’t invested in making sure you come back.”

I have since moved away from the city where his office is located. But I super don’t care. I take an hour-long train ride to get to him. He’s been my service provider for an incredible 18 years.

Free medical care checklist #3: Eye exams and new lenses

If you need glasses or contacts, go for an annual eye exam and ask your optometrist office to assist you in figuring out what your insurance will reimburse you for. I get yearly lens allowances (for glasses or contacts) and an every other year credit towards glasses frames. That’s a pretty common set-up.

If I haven’t gotten around to using it up by December, I call my optometrist and ask her to order me as many contact lenses as I still have an allowance for.

Also, if you wear glasses, don’t neglect to have them repaired and serviced as-needed. I had a pair I loved for ten months… when they were crushed in a tragic sex accident. My sheepish husband took them in to see if anything could be done. It turns out that particular line comes under a “no questions asked” one-year warranty. I had a brand new pair by the end of the week!

(Also, FYI, if your partner wears a very strong prescription, and you lovingly take off her glasses while making out, make sure you set them on the bedside table! —NOT just somewhere else on the bed! She will invariably have a great physical comedy routine lined up where she pretends to keep “missing” your penis during oral sex. But because she’s very funny and totally committed to the bit, she will dive completely past your body, landing on the glasses she couldn’t see, because she assumed you put them on the bedside table like a sane person.)

Free medical care checklist #4: Routine and seasonal vaccinations

Routine vaccines for adults

Every time you vaccinate yourself to deter a preventable disease, an angel DOESN’T get its wings. You know, because fewer people will die? Get it?

Ngl, a free medical care checklist makes me feel touched by an angel.

Here’s what most adults need…

  • COVID-19 vaccine and booster
  • Seasonal flu shot every year to prevent influenza
  • Tdap booster every 10 years to prevent tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis
  • HPV before age 26 to prevent genital warts and cancers
  • And you may need more if you’re…
    • Over 50
    • Pregnant
    • Working in healthcare
    • Traveling internationally
    • Missed any critical vaccines in childhood

The easiest time to get routine vaccines and boosters is when you’re at your annual physical. Your doctor will be able to advise on your vaccinations and their schedule.

Seasonal immunizations

If you don’t usually bother getting seasonal immunizations, here’s a story for you.

Piggy and I have a close friend who almost died from the common flu.

They were only in their 20s, and an extraordinarily fit marathon runner. On a random late winter day, they felt a little under the weather. Within 48 hours they were unconscious on a ventilator in the ICU.

Luckily, they survived. But they needed physical therapy to learn how to breathe and walk on their own again. And they went through a ton of physical and mental trauma, including missing their own wedding. I credit their survival to their amazing medical team, their wise decision to go to the hospital early, and their existing crazy-high level of fitness. My out-of-shape ass would’ve been dead! I would not have been alone; 36,000 Americans die of it every year.

The total cost of our friend’s fight with the common flu came to 1.1 million dollars. Luckily, they were newly covered under Obamacare. I don’t believe they ended up paying a cent. Have I mentioned health insurance is pretty worth-it?

If you follow this free medical care checklist, ye shall soar to health on the wings of an eagle!

It’s true that seasonal immunizations (like the flu shot) don’t always have a great success rate. It’s an illness with many rapidly-mutating strains. The vaccine makers have to try to predict which strain is the biggest threat, yielding mixed results.

But anything that cuts your odds of getting seriously sick is worth it—particularly if it’s free.

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So there it is! Your free medical care checklist. Their cost is built into your insurance premiums, so you’ve essentially already paid for them. So there’s no excuse not to get these four routine procedures every single year.

Save it for later so you don’t forget!

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