I have read your articles on group visits, most recently “Group Visits for Chronic Illness Care: Models, Benefits and Challenges” [January 2006] as well as the past article “Planning Group Visits for High-Risk Patients” [June 2000]. It seems that group visits would be the ideal format to address weight management. Could the group visit concept be applied to weight management, in addition to the other chronic diseases mentioned in the article? We have developed a weight management program that includes all of the group visit elements described in the article, but up to this point, we have been conducting our program off site and requiring patients to pay out-of-pocket to avoid reimbursement problems. Most patients are happy to pay fee-for-service, but I am concerned that this limits access to those unable to pay.
If an insurance carrier allows payment for individual medical visits related to obesity, then it should also cover a group visit related to obesity. A group visit performed properly is no different from an individual visit from a billing perspective. Unfortunately, many insurance carriers don't cover this diagnosis, thus complicating recruitment and billing for weight management group visits. Clearly, having patients pay out-of-pocket simplifies things, and many patients are willing to do so if your fee is reasonable.
For more information on how to conduct group visits, see “Planning Group Visits for High-Risk Patients,” FPM, June 2000, which you can access at https://www.aafp.org/fpm/20000600/33plan.html.