Annual wellness visits increase for adolescents

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) has been moderately successful in getting more adolescents to see doctors for annual wellness visits, but more needs to be done, according to a study published in JAMA Pediatrics. The study compared with adolescent frequency of annual wellness visits before and after the ACA went into effect in 2010. The results show that rates of preventive wellness visits for adolescents ages 10 to 17 increased from 41 percent pre-ACA to 48 percent post-ACA.

The ACA allows patients to receive preventive services without a copayment. The American Academy of Pediatrics’ guidelines recommends preventive care services up to age 21, including an annual visit.

The study also found that minority and low-income groups showed significant improvement in making annual visits. Hispanic adolescents’ wellness visits increased by 20 percent and African-American adolescent wellness visits by 10 percent. However, the study notes that while annual preventive check-ups increased post-ACA, less than 50 percent of the populations of adolescents were provided with preventive care.

“Despite modest to moderate increases, with greatest gains for underserved youth, adolescent preventive care rates remain low, highlighting the need for increased efforts to bring adolescents into well care and improve clinician delivery of preventive care within their practices,” the study concluded.

The study includes information from 25,695 adolescents ages 10 to 17 for the years pre-dating the ACA (2007-2009) and following its 2010 enactment (2012-2014).

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