By Joe Ciccanti
Sens. Tom Carper and Ted KAUFMAN (both D-Del.) announced new rules to implement measures in The Affordable Care Act to improve access to life-saving preventive care for Delaware families. Today, the Departments of Health and Human Services (HHS), Labor, and the Treasury will issue new regulations requiring new private health plans to cover recommended preventive services -- like blood pressure, diabetes, and cholesterol tests, routine vaccinations, flu shots, and regular check-ups for babies and children-- without charging a deductible, copayment or coinsurance. The provisions that are being announced today compliment other wellness and prevention policies that Sen. Carper championed during the health care reform debate including establishing national standards for menu labeling, encouraging employer-sponsored wellness programs, authorizing grants for small businesses to provide comprehensive workplace wellness programs, covering annual wellness visits in Medicare, providing cognitive and memory screenings as part of annual wellness visits in Medicare, and requiring the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid to increase its public outreach and guidance to states and health care providers regarding Medicaid's coverage of obesity-related services.
Americans use preventive services at about half the recommended rate, and 12 percent of children have not had a doctor's visit in the past year and receive. Chronic and often preventable diseases, such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes, are responsible for 7 of 10 deaths among Americans each year and account for 75 percent of the nation's health spending. In addition, obese individuals have health care costs 39 percent above average. High-quality preventive care helps Americans stay healthy, avoid or delay the onset of disease, lead productive lives and help reduce costs.
"Preventive care is paramount for a healthy lifestyle," said Sen. Carper. "Unfortunately, too many Delaware families and seniors don't have access to preventive care solely because of the costs associated with this care. Now, because of The Affordable Care Act, families and seniors in the First State and across the country will have better access to vital services. If we can prevent costly -- and deadly -- diseases now, the less we will spend overall on health care costs and the healthier we will be as a nation."
"By improving access to preventive medical care and prioritizing wellness, the number of Delawareans suffering from common, costly -- and often preventable -- chronic diseases will be lowered," said Sen. KAUFMAN. "Thanks to the preventive measures included in The Affordable Care Act, the tremendous costs to our health care system -- and the nation as a whole -- of treating those Americans suffering from chronic illness will also be greatly reduced."
The Affordable Care Act also eliminates cost sharing for recommended preventive care in Medicare beginning in 2011, making it easier for seniors to access critical preventive screenings and services.
Evidence-based preventive services have been proven to be effective, and under the new law they must be covered in new health policies for plan years beginning on or after September 23, 2010. Insurance companies offering these new plans can no longer charge Delaware residents a copayment, coinsurance or deductible for these services when they are delivered by a network provider.
Today's announcement builds on other provisions in The Affordable Care Act that support prevention, including the creation of a first-ever National Prevention and Health Promotion Strategy and a Prevention and Public Health Fund to invest in prevention initiatives and policies to increase the number of primary care professionals to help ensure access to these services.