June 15, 2009


 GHLIT Wellness Center back for 2009 convention

Trust provides free health screenings as part of its commitment to wellness

Posted June 1, 2009

AVMA members and their spouses attending the AVMA Annual Convention, July 11-14 in Seattle, can once again take advantage of free health screenings available through the Wellness Center, sponsored by the AVMA Group Health and Life Insurance Trust.

The Wellness Center is an extension of the Trust's commitment to protecting the health of AVMA members by providing wellness benefits as part of its standard medical coverage (deductible and coinsurance may apply on some plans).

Each year, the GHLIT sponsors the Wellness Center at a cost of nearly $65,000. The free screenings are convenient for members and also may help lower future medical costs.

"We understand that veterinarians are very busy, both in their practices and personal lives, and that it takes time to have annual examinations. As veterinarians, we encourage annual physicals for the pets we serve, and we need to follow through with that in our own lives," said Dr. Dwight D. King, a GHLIT trustee. "If you're attending the AVMA convention and you don't have the tests done for free at the Wellness Center, you're missing a real opportunity."

Wellness Center screenings may include blood biochemical analyses, lipid and hemoglobin tests, and tests for prostate-specific antigen. The screenings are a convenient way for members attending the convention to monitor previously diagnosed chronic conditions. The screenings also can identify indicators of serious—even life-threatening—conditions such as prostate cancer, diabetes, and cardiac disease.

Of the 1,077 biochemical analyses and lipid tests conducted during last year's convention in New Orleans, 43 revealed high glucose concentrations (> 70 to 125 mg/dL), an indicator of prediabetes or diabetes. (For the most accurate results, participants should fast for 10 to 12 hours prior to screening.)

Other findings from last year's Wellness Center that prompted recommendations for medical follow-up included the following:

  • Of 403 tests for PSA, results of 12 were in the high range (> 4 ng/mL).
  • Results of 70 of the 941 hemoglobin tests were in the high range (> 12 to 18 gr/dL), indicating the potential for conditions such as dehydration, excess production of red blood cells in bone marrow, and lung disease.
  • Results of 128 of 986 tests revealed high concentrations of C-reactive proteins in the blood, an indicator of inflammation. High CRP concentrations consistently predict recurrent coronary events in patients with unstable angina and acute myocardial infarction, are associated with lower survival rates in those patients, and may predict the risk that an artery will re-close after it has been opened by balloon angioplasty. Individuals with high CRP concentrations also may have twice the risk of stroke.
  • Twenty-four tests revealed high BUN/creatinine concentrations (> 10 to 20 mg/dL), indicating possible renal malfunction or failure. One hundred forty tests revealed high serum activities of glutamic oxaloacetic transaminase, glutamic pyruvic transaminase, γ-glutamyl transferase, and/or alkaline phosphatase—indicating possible liver disorders.
  • Cholesterol concentrations were high in 399 of the 1,077 individuals tested, and triglycerides were high in 111 tests, both indicating a risk for cardiac disease.

The Wellness Center also provides testing for rabies titers for a nominal fee of $35 (cash or check payment only), an affordable way for veterinarians to adhere to recommendations to undergo testing at least every two years to ensure continuity of an immune response. Rabies titers below 1:5 serum dilution suggest that a booster pre-exposure vaccination should be considered.

Results of all testing done at the Wellness Center are mailed to participants, along with a personalized letter recommending any appropriate medical follow-up. Individuals are encouraged to share the information with their personal physician during their annual wellness visit, especially if any results are outside reference ranges.

In fact, taking advantage of Wellness Center screenings may in many cases eliminate the need to repeat the same tests as part of an annual physical and may save money. A comprehensive metabolic panel, for example, can cost up to $150 or more depending on location.

Wellness benefits included in the Trust's medical plans include annual adult physical examinations, including any radiography or laboratory services ordered as part of that examination, and routine immunizations. An annual gynecologic examination, Pap smear, and any associated radiography or laboratory services also are covered. Additional information on GHLIT's wellness benefits can be found in the medical brochure available at www.avmaghlit.org.

The first $300 in expenses related to wellness benefits incurred in a calendar year is covered at 100 percent by most GHLIT medical plans, with no deductible or coinsurance requirements. When scheduling annual physicals, members are advised to remind their physician to code the visit as a wellness examination to ensure they capture the no-deductible benefit.