Senior Health Services Research Advisor

Annual Wellness Visits: Usage Rates among Medicare Advantage Enrollees

First in a series of blog posts on annual wellness visits and a new AARP Public Policy Institute study on the topic. Medicare’s annual wellness visit is a preventive health benefit created by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010. Starting in January 2011, all Medicare beneficiaries with Part B coverage could receive free annual wellness visits 12 months after becoming eligible for Medicare. The purpose of the annual wellness visit, which is not considered a physical examination, …

Potential Overuse of Dementia Drugs Can Lead to High Prescription Drug Costs

Dementia is an increasingly prevalent condition that millions of families must deal with every day. It can be taxing—emotionally, physically, and financially—for all involved, and people are understandably looking for help wherever they can find it. However, there could be a big disconnect between how health care providers prescribe drugs used to treat the condition and what is supported by clinical evidence, a new AARP Public Policy Institute report finds. Dementia is defined as a loss of cognitive functioning—the ability …

Off-Label Antipsychotic Use: Not Just a Nursing Home Problem

Providers continue to prescribe potentially harmful antipsychotic (AP) medications to older adults with dementia, putting them at increased risk of adverse health events such as stroke and death Antipsychotics are prescription drugs approved by the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) to treat psychosis, including delusions and hallucinations, as well as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, Tourette syndrome, and Huntington’s disease, among other conditions. These drugs are not approved to treat symptoms of dementia, such as aggression and agitation. Nevertheless, antipsychotics are …

The Slippery Slope of Declining Low-Value Medical Services

While hundreds of “low-value” medical services are driving up health care costs, eliminating these services altogether could hurt some patients by denying them access to potentially appropriate care. Procedures such as prostate cancer screening for men over 75, MRIs for low back pain, X-rays prior to low-risk surgeries are examples of services paid for by consumers and insurance companies that may be unnecessary, or worse, harmful. As a result, many providers and policymakers want to eliminate low-value medical care.1 However, …

New Prostate Cancer Screening Guideline Recommends ‘Individualized Decisionmaking’ by Patients

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), an independent national panel of medical experts, this week released a draft revised guideline on screening for prostate cancer with the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test. The revised guideline reverses its 2012 recommendation discouraging PSA screening among men of all races and ages. Instead, USPSTF now encourages men ages 55 to 69 to discuss the test with their physicians and decide for themselves if they want to undergo PSA screening. The draft guideline also …

Examining the Evidence on Treating Prostate Cancer: What’s a Man to Do?

Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer (next to skin cancer) and the second leading cause of death from cancer among men in the U.S. Due to the high risk of side effects associated with prostate cancer treatments, such as erectile dysfunction, urinary incontinence and fecal incontinence, physicians and consumers want to know they are choosing the best evidence-based treatment. Unfortunately, there is currently no scientific consensus to guide them. A recent study compared three treatment options for prostate …