The Affordable Care Act includes many preventive health care services at no cost to the patient. Every American with health insurance, including Medicare, is now eligible for many preventive services that previously often required a co-payment, deductible or other out-of-pocket cost. In fact, about a third of Americans have already received a free preventive service under this component of the law.
Undiagnosed diseases and conditions add considerably to health care costs. Treatable conditions are often caught in advanced stages when they are more difficult and expensive to treat, or more likely to lead to early death.
The average American spends more on health care than anyone else in the world, and do not get the best outcomes, according to a National Bureau of Economic Research study. Europeans, who spend about half as much on health care, have a better life expectancy than Americans who pay more.
Much of the failure for better health outcomes for Americans stems from the lack of access to health care and preventive services that can prevent diseases before they become life-threatening.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports chronic conditions are the “leading cause of death and disability in the U.S.” Their data shows that about half of the adult population suffers from some form of serious chronic disease, many of which are preventable if diagnosed and treated early.
Chronic health conditions cost Americans $1.7 trillion annually. The free preventive screenings included in the Affordable Care Act are designed to eliminate financial barriers to essential services that can save both lives and money.
Diabetes alone affects approximately 80 million Americans at a cost of $174 billion a year, according to the National Diabetes Education Program. With regular preventive screenings, changes in eating habits and lifestyles that include exercise, the full onset of insulin-dependent diabetes can be delayed or even prevented.
Kaiser Health News reports, “Largely preventable and highly manageable chronic diseases account for 75 cents of every dollar we spend on health care in the U.S. In contrast, we spend less than five cents on prevention, even though the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have estimated that 80 percent of heart disease and type 2 diabetes, and 40 percent of cancers, could be prevented by doing three things: exercising more, eating better and avoiding tobacco.”
Inactive lifestyles and poor eating choices have led to an obesity epidemic in America that is impacting the health of children as well as adults. Sedentary, overweight people are more likely to develop heart disease, diabetes, depression, vascular diseases and a whole host of other conditions that could be avoided with nutritional education and early intervention.
“For the first time, the annual report includes an analysis that forecasts 2030 adult obesity rates in each state and the likely resulting rise in obesity-related disease rates and health care costs,” according to a study from Trust for America’s Health.
It is more effective to prevent a problem than it is to repair damage already done. Obesity carries more than a social stigma; it can be deadly. However, it is also preventable in many cases.
Focus on Prevention
Beginning September 23, 2010, the following preventive care services are covered benefits under the Affordable Care Act:
- Mammograms for women
- Flu shots
- Colonoscopy screenings for colon cancer
- Wellness visits for children and adults
- Abdominal aortic aneurysm screenings
- Blood pressure screenings
- Cholesterol screenings
- Depression screenings
- Diet counseling
- Type 2 diabetes screenings
- HIV screenings
- Immunization vaccines
Preventing diseases and treating chronic conditions saves lives and reduces the cost of health care for Americans. There are many more preventative health care screening services available at no cost to Americans with health insurance including Medicare. There are also many specifically geared toward woman and children. The complete list can be viewed at HHS.gov.
Maryann Tobin is an award-winning writer based in Tampa, Florida. She has appeared on the History Channel’s ‘DECODED’ series, and her investigative reporting on animal welfare issues led to a WTSP 10 News Investigators report. Her work can be found on Examiner.com.