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Medicare's advertising campaign could fill your appointment book this summer

If you or your front desk staff had plans to take a vacation this summer, you may want to rethink them.

Medicare has rolled out a major advertising campaign to get patients to visit you for an annual wellness visit and free preventive services. Since fewer than 20% of eligible patients used those services in the first half of the year, expect an onslaught of request for appointments.

Beginning this year, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act eliminated Part B coinsurance and deductibles for recommended preventive services, including many cancer screenings and key immunizations. It also eliminated the cost to beneficiaries for an annual wellness visit.

A recent study found that only about 16% of eligible patients, about 5.5 million of 33 million traditional Medicare beneficiaries, had used the benefits the first half of this year, with mammograms, bone density screening, and tests for prostate cancer being most sought. Only about 780,000 Medicare-eligible patients had received an annual wellness visit by June 10 this year.

In an effort to increase those numbers, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has launched a campaign called Medicare’s Share the News, Share the Health, which will run throughout the summer. Online advertising and community events will begin in July.

If you haven’t already, you should receive a “Dear Doctor” letter, asking you to discuss preventive care with your Medicare patients. A list of covered services is available on a dedicated Web site.

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