We Americans are getting healthier but we can do a lot more. That’s the consensus of the 2010 America’s Health Rankings®, an annual, state-by-state assessment of the nation’s health published by United Health Foundation, American Public Health Association and Partnership for Prevention. Cited as largely responsible for the improvement are the decrease of tobacco use to a 21-year low, fewer infectious diseases and fewer preventable hospitalizations. Still, treating preventable chronic illness and disease drives up health care costs for everyone. That’s why one of the mandates of the Affordable Care Act (aka ObamaCare), effective September 23, 2010, requires that new group and individual private insurance policies cover 100% of the cost of 45 preventive procedures that have proven to be effective.
Yet despite the fact that all new health insurance policies offer these services free (and many existing health care plans already cover part or all of their costs), the study showed that you, the insured, aren’t taking advantage of available preventive care. For instance, only half of eligible women get an annual mammogram, only 37% of adults get an annual flu shots and fewer than 30% of smokers avail themselves of smoking cessation counseling. Not only are you leaving money on the table, you could be gambling with your life.
Health and Human Services (HHS) estimates that the new provision will benefit 31 million people in new employer plans and another 10 million in new individual policies. (Existing policies that don’t currently cover the named preventive services are exempt until they significant changes to their policies.) HHS further anticipates that 88 million Americans will enjoy improved access to prevention coverage by 2013. That’s when anyone with employer or individual health policies will no longer have to pay a deductible or co-pay for any recommended preventive procedure with an A or B rating. The United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) analyzes and grades the benefits of preventive services using letter grades from A to F.
Some of the 45 free preventive health care services include: flu vaccines; smoking cessation counseling; mammograms; colorectal cancer screening; counseling on preventing heart attack with aspirin therapy; osteoporosis screening; screening for diabetes type 2; screening for major depressive disorders in adolescents; hearing testing in newborns; and high-intensity behavioral counseling for sexually active teens and adults thought to be at increased risk for sexually transmitted disease. For a full list of free preventive procedures, consult your policy or talk to your plan administrator. If you are looking for quotes for individual health insurance or quotes for small business health insurance, ask the insurer to explain the free preventive care benefits now offered.