Medicare Jumpstarts Wellness and Prevention Efforts

As of January 1st of this year, Medicare must now provide free annual wellness visits and personalized prevention plans to their beneficiaries as stipulated by PPACA. An article by Francine Russo in this month’s Time Magazine discusses what these wellness visits and personalized prevention plans might look like in practice and some of the barriers providers might face in implementing these new measures. The wellness visits and prevention plans described in the article focus exclusively on lifestyle interventions aimed at improving diet, increasing exercise and limiting smoking – a far cry from utilizing an array of risk predictions tools to quantify all of a patient’s individual health and disease risks over time – but an important and critical movement in the right direction. The article points out the difficulty physicians might have in finding the time to fit a comprehensive personalized prevention plan that is thorough enough to be effective, yet compact enough to squeeze into their already packed visits with patients. These types of behavioral modifications are notoriously difficult to initiate and maintain over time. With this new tenet of health care reform going into effect, physicians will now be reimbursed by Medicare for taking the time to work with patients to try and address these lifestyle issues. Such a large undertaking will require the coordination of care between physicians, patients, and nutritionists, lifestyle coaches, etc. in order to be effective. These changes in reimbursement may be just what was needed to kick-start the wellness and prevention movement.

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