AMARILLO, Texas(KAMR/KCIT) —Annual wellness or health maintenance visits to your doctor or primary care provider can be an important part of your overall health, but navigating the process to get them completed and paid for can be a challenge.

Health maintenance visits are designed to do just that – maintain your health. Historically, and sometimes even still, we’ll use language like “going in for a physical,” which tends to make us think that the most important thing that will happen in that visit would involve stethoscopes, tongue depressors, or reflex hammers. While those can be important parts of a visit like this, they really aren’t the main focus or the best use of time during a visit focused on keeping you as healthy as possible.

Because they need to keep you as healthy as possible for as long as possible to either lower the amount of tax dollars we use on providing this care, or they help them stay in business and make a profit in the case of the insurance companies, and they know that keeping your out of harm’s way and out of the hospital is the best way to do that – and something we all want for ourselves too. They want this so much, in fact, that they often make these prevention-focused visits free for you, just to get you to take advantage of them. But the free part can also lead to a lot of confusion. They are free because they want you to spend the time focusing on prevention, not on managing what you already have. To most of us, “health maintenance” is what happens when we take the medications and get the tests done that our doctors need to manage our blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, arthritis, etc. But if you let that other stuff creep into a health maintenance visit, you never get around to talking about the screening tests, prevention, healthy diet and exercise strategies, and other things that these visits are designed to address.