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Medicare Preventive Examination Includes Hearing & Balance Screening

Effective January 1, 2005 all new Medicare beneficiaries are entitled to a preventive physical examination within six months of enrollment in Medicare Part B program. The exam requires a review of hearing impairment, falls risk, and activities of daily living. This new preventive physical examination requirement provides an excellent opportunity for audiologists to serve as a resource to primary care physicians, as CMS has stated that abnormal screenings may warrant follow-up services such as counseling and referral. Further information on the Initial Preventive Physical Examination, can be found on the CMS Web site at www.cms.hhs.gov/medlearn/matters/mmarticles/2005/MM3638.pdf.

In response to comments submitted from ASHA in October, CMS provided guidance regarding appropriate standardized patient questionnaires to be used by primary care physicians (PCPs). CMS also accepted ASHA's position that primary care physicians role should be limited to questioning their patients to help flag those who require additional evaluation or are at risk. ASHA has also requested that Practicing Physicians Advisory Council (PPAC) recommend to CMS that after the initial screening, those patients in need of formal audiometric evaluation should be referred to an audiologist. For additional information, please contact Ingrida Lusis, ASHA's Director of Health Care Regulatory Advocacy, via e-mail at ilusis@asha.org or by phone at 800-498-2071, ext. 4482; or Mark Kander, ASHA's Director of Health Care Regulatory Analysis, via e-mail at mkander@asha.org or by phone at ext. 4139.

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