Reducing Disparities in Healthy Aging Through an Enhanced Medicare Annual Wellness Visit

In its current form, the Medicare annual wellness visit (AWV) is not reaching most older Americans, particularly lower-income or minority adults and those served by safety-net providers (Ganguli, Souza, McWilliams, & Mehrotra, 2018). Yet these underserved seniors face disparities in healthy aging, likely due to individual, social, and behavioral determinants of health, such as low income, limited education, social isolation, food insecurity, poor housing quality, and difficulty affording medications. New AWV models should move beyond traditional assessments of cognition, balance, and vision to identify and address important root causes of poor health, such as individual, social, and behavioral determinants of health. Incorporating these key determinants of health into AWVs has the potential to promote healthy aging among underserved seniors. In this paper, we present local opportunities for AWV-related practice transformation, including screening tools, electronic health record templates, care team member roles, and workflows. At the national level, we suggest updates to Medicare's current AWV policy guidelines with regard to visit elements and funding models.