October 1, 2019
Though it doesn’t cover a physical exam, the Medicare Annual Wellness Visit should not be skipped, Dr. Tom Weida said at the semester’s first Osher Lifelong Learning Institute Mini-Medical School held at the Bryant Conference Center on The University of Alabama campus.
Weida, a physician and chief medical officer at University Medical Center and faculty member at the UA College of Community Health Sciences, discussed the sometimes confusing Medicare system and the coverage provided under the annual wellness visit (AWV) by Medicare Part B. The AWV was funded by the 2010 Affordable Care Act and began reimbursement in 2011. Medicare was not originally funded for preventive care and the wellness visits were created to help cover the gap in care.
Routine immunization, review of history of health, measurements of height, weight, body mass index, blood pressure and mobility, as well as a cognitive function test are administered. If an ongoing problem is found, the treatment for it is not covered under the AWV and may be an out-of-pocket cost.
“The history is 85% of the diagnosis,” Weida said. “That’s why this is such a valuable exam.”
The patient is given personalized advice or referrals to prevent falls, ensure good nutrition, maintain physical activity, cease tobacco use, lose weight and maintain cognitive function.
Most standard immunizations are covered, however shingles, tetanus, whooping cough, MMR, Hepatitus A and calcium supplements are not covered.
Weida reiterated that the annual wellness visit is not to deal with a current issue, and it is not considered a physical exam. Patients should be careful when scheduling the visit to say they want their annual wellness visit, to avoid the doctor’s office miscoding it with the insurance company.
The Mini Medical School Program, a partnership of the College and UA’s OLLI Program, features lectures provided by College faculty physicians about current topics, issues and advances in medicine and health. OLLI is a member-led program catering to those aged 50 and older.