In 2016 fee-for-service Medicare began reimbursing physicians for advance care planning conversations with enrollees during outpatient visits and waived the copayment for advance care planning when it was part of the Medicare annual wellness visit. Advance care planning is intended to help providers treat patients in ways consistent with their wishes and may also reduce unnecessary health care use and spending. Examining fee-for-service Medicare claims, we found a substantial increase in outpatient advance care planning claims between 2016 and 2019, although prevalence remained below 7.5 percent for all patient subgroups analyzed. Roughly half of beneficiaries with advance care planning claims received the service at an annual wellness visit; the remainder received it at a different outpatient visit. Among those with claims, Black, Hispanic, and Medicaid dual-eligible patients and patients with comorbidities were less likely to have a claim at an annual wellness visit, largely because they have fewer such visits overall. Medicare’s annual wellness visits offer the potential to expand enrollees’ access to advance care planning at no expense to them, in advance of serious illness, and to populations less likely to undertake advance care planning generally.
The full study is available in Health Affairs.