Practices Caring For The Underserved Are Less Likely To Adopt Medicares Annual Wellness Visit
Author: Ishani Ganguli, Jeffrey Souza, J. Michael McWilliams, Ateev Mehrotra
In 2011 Medicare introduced the annual wellness visit to help address the health risks of aging adults. The visit also offers primary care practices an opportunity to generate revenue, and may allow practices in accountable care organizations to attract healthier patients while stabilizing patient-practitioner assignments. However, uptake of the visit has been uneven. Using national Medicare data for the period 2008–15, we assessed practices’ ability and motivation to adopt the visit. In 2015, 51.2 percent of practices provided no annual wellness visits (nonadopters), while 23.1 percent provided visits to at least a quarter of their eligible beneficiaries (adopters). Adopters replaced problem-based visits with annual wellness visits and saw increases in primary care revenue. Compared to nonadopters, adopters had more stable patient assignment and a slightly healthier patient mix. At the same time, visit rates were lower among practices caring for underserved populations (for example, racial minorities and those dually enrolled in Medicaid), potentially worsening disparities. Policy makers should consider ways to encourage uptake of the visit or other mechanisms to promote preventive care in underserved populations and the practices that serve them.